Japan core inflation little changed, household spending weak

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TOKYO (AP) — Japan's economy coasted along with only slight improvements in January despite a rebound in corporate investment.

Core inflation excluding volatile food prices rose 0.1 percent, mainly due to an uptick in energy prices, data released Friday showed. The unemployment rate in the world's third-largest economy edged slightly lower, to 3.0 percent, and the number of jobs per applicant remained at a 26-year high.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan's planners have been trying to rekindle inflation in hopes of getting consumers and businesses to spend more, but demand has remained more or less flat for the past year. Households spent 1.2 percent less in January than a year earlier.

Household incomes have risen as more elderly and women joined the work force, but overall families have tended to save any increases, and there have been only scant increases in wages.

Exports rose late last year, but weakened in January due to lunar new year holidays in China and many other Asian countries that are important trading partners for Japan. Data released earlier showed industrial output fell 0.8 percent in January from the month before.

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