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Japan economy shrinks more than expected

Japan’s economy shrank more than expected in the final quarter of last year as consumer spending and exports slumped, adding to headaches for policymakers already wary of damage the financial market rout could inflict on a fragile recovery.

Gross domestic product contracted by an annualized 1.4 percent in October-December, bigger than a market forecast for a 1.2 percent decline and matching a fall marked in the second quarter of last year, Cabinet Office data showed on Monday. It followed a revised 1.3 percent increase in the previous quarter.

The data underscores the challenges premier Shinzo Abe faces in dragging the world’s third-largest economy out of stagnation, as exports to emerging markets fail to gain enough momentum to make up for soft domestic demand.

Market speculation of additional monetary easing simmers, although the Bank of Japan’s policy ammunition appears to be dwindling, analysts say, after it deployed negative interest rates last month.

“Private consumption is especially weak. The economy is at a standstill,” said Junko Nishioka, chief economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking.

“It’s a matter of time before the BOJ and the government will take additional stimulus measures,” she said, predicting the central bank will ease policy again as early as next month.

Credit:Reuters

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