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Economy

Japan household spending falls for 4th month in May

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese households reduced spending for the fourth straight month in May, government data showed Friday, further clouding the outlook for economic growth in the second quarter.

Spending by households with two or more people fell 3.9 percent from a year earlier to 281,307 yen ($2,543), the biggest drop since August 2016, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The ministry maintained its assessment that spending is "showing weakness." Expenditures fell across a wide range, from eating out and clothing to durables such as TVs and cameras.

A ministry official who briefed reporters said that the decline was in part due to the Golden Week holiday being shorter than the previous year.

The recent weakness in private consumption, which accounts for the majority of economic activity in Japan, hurts the prospects for the country to rebound from a contraction in the January-March quarter in April-June.

It also presents a conundrum for the Bank of Japan, which is hoping that strong corporate profits and a deepening labor crunch will spark wage gains, loosening consumers' purse strings and lifting inflation toward its 2 percent target.

The central bank's chief, Haruhiko Kuroda, has said he will not end aggressive monetary easing until the price goal is achieved, despite peers in the United States and Europe being already in the process of normalizing policy.

But core consumer prices, less volatile fresh foods, rose just 0.7 percent in May from the previous year and the bank could lower its inflation forecasts for the current fiscal year at a policy meeting later this month.

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