A Japanese man passes a stocks board in Tokyo.
The devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11 battered Japan Inc. in the first three months of 2011, with companies seeing their profits slashed by a third, a survey said Friday .
The results of the poll by the Nikkei daily highlight the huge economic impact of the earthquake and tsunami and the resulting nuclear plant crisis, which led to power cuts and the closure of factories, slashing production.
The business daily also said Japan's gross domestic product for the three months to June is expected to contract an annualised 3.2 percent, according to average estimates of 10 economists.
The news came a day after official data showed Japan's industrial production slumped 15.3 percent from February to March, the sharpest drop since records began in 1953, because of the disasters.
The survey of 544 listed firms found that their collective net profit fell 32 percent in the January to March period, the first decline in six quarters.
However, it also said profits for the year to the end of March were higher year-on-year thanks to strong gains from April to December. The report did not give full-year figures.
A separate survey by the paper covering about 1,000 listed companies showed their aggregate extraordinary losses stemming from the natural disasters came to about 600 billion yen ($7.36 billion).
The newspaper estimated that the total impact of the earthquake and tsunami on all listed companies reached about $12.3 billion.
Many analysts expect corporate activity to pick up after the summer as reconstruction gets under way in the northeast of the country, although many business leaders remain cautious in their outlook.
A sharp fall in exports, depressed production, and chilled consumption after the disaster are seen driving down the economy for now.
The Nikkei said 10 renowned economists believe the Japanese economy shrank in the January-March quarter, with their contraction estimates ranging from 0.4 percent to 3.9 percent, averaging a 2.3-percent fall.
For the April-June quarter, the decline is expected to widen to 3.2 percent on average.
The government will release official data for the January-March quarter on May 19, and the data for the April-June quarter on August 15.
However, the economists on average expected the July-September quarter to show 3.2 percent growth, with their outlook ranging from 1.0-percent contraction to 7.0-percent growth, the newspaper said.
The Bank of Japan cut its growth forecast for this fiscal year to 0.6 percent from its earlier 1.6 percent projection, although it predicted a rebound next year as Japan rebuilds.