TOKYO: Japan’s economy expanded faster than previously thought in the first three months of the year, according to fresh data Monday that was likely to boost support for Tokyo’s efforts at stoking growth.
The Cabinet Office said revised data showed annualised growth came in at 4.1 percent in January-March, up from a preliminary reading of 3.5 percent and well ahead of many other industrialised nations who are struggling to stoke their economies.
The figures come days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled his so-called “third arrow” of a sweeping plan for the economy that includes big government spending and aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan.
Since winning landslide December elections, the conservative premier has moved to revive the flaccid economy and end years of growth-sapping deflation with a scheme dubbed “Abenomics”.
His huge programme has sent the yen plunging around 20 percent since November, which has in turn sent shares in Tokyo soaring.
Markets were initially unimpressed by Abe’s announcement last week to put in place structural reforms to support growth but he has vowed to press on before mid-term elections next month that are likely to solidify his Liberal Democratic Party’s legislative power.
“The upward revision (for economic growth) confirmed that the Japanese economy remains on a firm recovery track,” said Hideki Matsumura, senior economist with the Japan Research Institute.
The annualised figures, which show the level of growth if quarterly data were stretched over an entire year, comes as economists sift through recent figures for signs that Abenomics is taking hold.
The IMF has said it expects Japan’s economy to grow 1.6 percent in 2013.
The Cabinet Office also said revised figures for real GDP showed Japan’s economy grew 1.0 percent in the first three months of the year, slightly better than the preliminary 0.9 percent growth reading.
The improvement was partly due to an upward revision in capital spending, a key measure of confidence among the nation’s producers.
“We expect the economy will continue to grow for now but consumer spending may be dampened in the current quarter after a sizeable adjustment in the Nikkei index,” Matsumura said, referring to a recent drop in the Tokyo stock market.
Also Monday, official figures showed Japan posted a surplus on its current account for the third straight month in April, as the weaker yen helped boost the value of income from overseas investments.
Japan’s surplus doubled year-on-year to 750 billion yen ($7.6 billion) in its current account, the broadest measure of trade with the rest of the world, helping offset a widening trade deficit.
Japan’s import bills have soared in the wake of the Fukushima atomic crisis two years ago, which saw Tokyo turn to pricey fossil-fuel alternatives after switching off the disaster-struck country’s nuclear reactors.