Japan's economy exits recession

Feb 17, 2015, 2:24 AM EST
People are seen in front of the building of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, Japan, on February 16, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images

Japan came out of recession in the fourth quarter of last year, but the world's third largest economy grew at a slower than expected pace, the BBC reports.

The economy expanded by an annualised 2.2% in the three months to December in a preliminary reading, compared to forecasts for a 3.7% increase. Japan's growth in the fourth quarter comes after the economy contracted for the two previous quarters. Japan has been recovering from a sales tax hike, which dampened spending.

The economy grew 0.6% in the period from the previous quarter, but that also fell below forecasts of 0.9% growth.

The data showed a fragile recovery in the country where consumer sentiment remains soft even after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delayed a second increase to the sales tax that was scheduled for October this year.

Private consumption, which accounts for about 60% of the economy, increased 0.3% in the fourth quarter, less than the 0.7% rise expected by economists.

Glenn Levine, senior economist at Moody's Analytics said exports "added solidly" to economic growth, accounting for about half of the expansion, while the rest of the economy remained relatively subdued.

The most disappointing component of the gross domestic product (GDP) figures was the "paltry" increase in business investment. "Japan's corporate sector is enjoying record profit levels and sits atop a mountain of cash, with export-facing firms, in particular, benefiting from better export sales linked to the cheaper yen," Mr Levine of Moody's said. "Yet, so far firms have been reluctant to deploy any of this cash and invest in additional capacity."

This "issue of confidence" shows that firms do not believe that the domestic economy is improving, which is a reflection of whether Prime Minister Abe's economic policies termed "Abenomics" are succeeding, he said. Japan's weaker than expected growth comes despite a series of stimulus measures by the government.