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Japan Dec core machinery orders drop 15.7 pct mth/mth

TOKYO, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Japan's core machinery orders fell 15.7 percent in December, dropping for the first time in three months after a hefty gain in the previous month, government data showed on Wednesday. The month-on-month fall in core orders, which exclude those of ships and electric power utilities, compared with a 4.1 percent drop forecast by economists in a Reuters poll. It followed a 9.3 percent gain in November, the Cabinet Office data showed. Companies surveyed by the Cabinet Office forecast that core orders will fall 2.9 percent in January-March, after increasing 1.5 percent in October-December, which was the third straight quarter of gains. Compared with a year earlier, core orders, a highly volatile data series regarded as an indicator of capital spending in the coming six to nine months, increased 6.7 percent in December, against a 17.6 percent gain expected. To view full table, go to the Cabinet Office's website at: