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Date : 08-05-17 17:49
Japan reports 3.3 percent annual pace economic growth for first quarter
 Writer : J&K
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's economy grew at a healthy, better-than-expected 3.3 percent annual pace in the first quarter, racking up its third straight quarter of growth.

But analysts warned Friday that growth was almost certain to slow in coming months as technical factors, such as a downward revision for the previous quarter and an extra day in February for a leap year, had inflated the data.

"The appearance of good news is actually partly false," said Kenichi Kawasaki, an economist at Lehman Brothers in Tokyo.

Japanese company profits were getting a hammering from rising oil prices, causing them to be cautious about investments and salary raises, and people couldn't be expected to spend more if their paychecks were shrinking amid soaring gas and food prices, he said.

The Cabinet Office data released Friday show Japan's gross domestic product -- or the value of a nation's goods and services -- grew 0.8 percent on quarter, and would expand 3.3 percent, if that growth marked January-March continues for a year.

Japan, the world's second largest economy, is largely dependent on exports to keep growth going, raising some worries that a global credit crunch may threaten growth.

Analysts said much of the boost to the economy came from exports to emerging markets, such as China and other Asian nations. But exports could slow to such nations because of rising global energy and food prices, analysts said.

"It's unthinkable that growth will continue at this pace," said Yoshimasa Maruyama, economist at BNP Paribas in Tokyo.

Company investments sank into negative territory, contracting 0.9 percent in January-March after rising the two previous quarters.

Friday's numbers were better than the 0.7 percent on-quarter rise, an annual rate of 2.8 percent, forecast by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

The latest data showed both exports and imports remain relatively strong -- with exports growing 4.5 percent from the previous quarter, while imports grew 2 percent.

Private sector demand was weak but growing, at 0.5 percent for the quarter, while household consumption climbed 0.8 percent.

For the fiscal year ended March, Japan's economy managed to grow 1.5 percent, although that was weaker than the 2.5 percent growth for the previous year ending March 2007.

The GDP numbers for the last three quarters have been improving. Japan's economy grew 0.3 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2007, and 0.6 percent in the quarter ended Dec. 31, according to the government.

(Mainichi Japan)