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U.S. policy risks raining on Japan Inc.’s parade

TOKYO — An earnings upswing has done little to ease the minds of many Japanese executives, whose worries include the consequences of American economic policy under President Donald Trump.

 

Konica Minolta, which released October-December earnings Tuesday, enjoyed brisk U.S. sales. But senior executive officer Seiji Hatano is not sanguine about the market outlook. “Some American companies are putting off investment decisions to see what the Trump administration does,” Hatano said.

 

The president’s recent broadside against a perceived imbalance in bilateral auto trade has sent jitters through the Japanese automotive industry. How the spread of protectionist sentiment will affect business remains impossible to predict.

 

The trend could disrupt plans by machine tool manufacturer Nachi-Fujikoshi to start up a factory in Mexico. “If our clients shift production to the U.S., we’ll have no choice but to do the same,” President Hiroo Honma said. “We haven’t decided what we’ll do with the vacant factory.”

 

Other concerns include emerging markets, particularly China, whose economy has picked up of late. “There’s a risk of an economic slowdown if trade friction with the U.S. comes to pass,” warned Tetsuo Katsurayama, an executive officer at Hitachi Construction Machinery.

 

Executives have also cited continued concerns about a possible yen rebound and sluggish domestic consumption. Meanwhile, more than a few corporate leaders have said they will work to fortify their companies’ strengths regardless of the external environment.

 

“There’s keen interest in such highly profitable new products as automatic guided vehicles,” Nidec Chairman and President Shigenobu Nagamori said. The company forecasts record profit this fiscal year on strong sales of industrial motors.

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