May 18, 2017 9:30 am JST

Japan's economy expands annualized 2.2% in January-March quarter

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's economy grew an annualized real 2.2 percent in the January-March period for a fifth straight quarter of expansion, buoyed by robust exports and a pickup in private consumption, government data showed Thursday.

The growth in inflation-adjusted gross domestic product corresponds to a 0.5 percent increase from the previous quarter. GDP is the total value of goods and services produced at home.

With a 2.1 percent quarter-on-quarter jump in overall exports, strong shipments to Asia continued to give a boost to the world's third largest economy, whose dependence on overseas demand is high. Private consumption, accounting for roughly 60 percent of the country's GDP, rose 0.4 percent.

Corporate capital spending, a key indicator watched closely by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, gained 0.2 percent, following a 1.9 percent gain in the previous quarter.

The GDP data came as a relief to Abe and policymakers trying to encourage frugal Japanese consumers and companies to spend more and buttress economic growth.

The yen's recent depreciation against the dollar amid hopes for a stronger U.S. economy apparently helped Japanese exporters as a weak yen tends to make their products competitive and boost overseas profits when repatriated.

But analysts say uncertainty persists about the future course of trade policy under U.S. President Donald Trump. With his "America First" agenda, Trump has taken issue with massive U.S. trade deficits with countries such as China and Japan.

Public investment was down 0.1 percent in the three months through March, the data showed.

In nominal terms, or unadjusted for price changes, the economy contracted an annualized 0.1 percent, the first decline in five quarters.

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