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Japanesehousehold spending fell 3.1 percent in January from a year earlier in price-adjusted real terms,government data showed on Tuesday.
The reading compared with the median forecastfor a 2.7 percent decline in aReuters poll of economists, data from the Ministry of InternalAffairs andCommunications showed.
Meanwhile, data from the Ministry of Finance showed that Japanese companies raised spending on factories and equipment by 8.5 percent in October-December compared with the same period a year earlier, suggesting business investment may be losing firm momentum.
That followed an 11.2 percent year-on-year rise in capital spending in the previous quarter.
The data will be used to calculate revised gross domestic product figures due on March 8. A preliminary estimate showed the economy contracted an annualized 1.4 percent in October-December as consumer spending and exports slumped.
Decelerating capital investment and corporate profits are a worrying sign that the government may need to respond with more stimulus measures to prevent business and household activity from weakening further.
"The global economy is stagnating, which points to a slight downward revision to Q4 GDP," said Hiroaki Muto, economist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center Co. "The economy will return to growth in the current quarter, but it won't be strong. This could hasten talk of an extra budget for economic stimulus."
Japan's robust employment pattern continued, however, with seasonally adjusted unemployment falling in January to 3.2 percent, versus the median estimate for 3.3 percent, data showed on Tuesday. The jobs to applicants ratio rose to a 24-year high of 1.28, versus the median forecast of 1.27.
The data came as Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said that the central bank's negative interest rate policy was already having positive effects. On January 29 the Bank of Japan introduced negative interest rates in the country for the first time.
"It has brought down the yield curb and housing loan interest rates, so it is having positive effects," Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
Aso also said he was currently not considering compiling additional fiscal spending to prop up the economy given that the budget for next fiscal year had not yet cleared parliament.
- CNBC contributed to this report.
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