TOKYO: Japanese inflation slowed again in December, official data showed on Friday, as weak consumer spending and falling energy prices challenge Tokyo’s war on deflation, hiking pressure on the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to unleash more stimulus. But an uptick in factory output suggests that the world’s number-three economy may be crawling out of recession, analysts said, as the unemployment rate hit a 17-year low. The mixed bag of economic data published Friday morning showed core consumer inflation slowed for a fifth straight month, while the internal affairs ministry reported that spending among Japanese households fell a greater-than-expected 3.4 percent from a year ago, as a sales tax hike weighed on shopping nationwide. Inflation is a key measure for Tokyo’s bid to end years of stagnant or falling prices that have been blamed for holding back growth and denting firms’ expansion plans. Prices were on the rise, largely because of Japan’s heavy post-Fukushima energy bills, but oil rates have tumbled in recent months and consumers snapped their wallets shut after the government raised sales taxes to 8.0 percent from 5.0 percent last year.