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Photograph: EPA/LESZEK SZYMANSKI

The Japanese economy expanded at an annualized rate of 1.7 per cent in the January to March period thanks to gains in public and consumer spending, the government said Wednesday.

Private consumption, which makes up 60 per cent of output, rose 0.5 per cent quarter on quarter, compared with a 0.8-per-cent decrease in the October to December quarter, the Cabinet Office said in a preliminary report.

Government spending increased 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of this year while public investment was up 0.3 per cent, the office said.

Meanwhile, corporate investment, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government considers as key to propping up the world’s third-largest economy, fell 1.4 per cent.

Exports climbed 0.6 per cent quarter on quarter for the first growth in two quarters, while imports slipped 0.5 per cent for the second straight quarter of decline, the office said.

The economy shrank 1.7 per cent in the October to December quarter, revised down from 1.1-per-cent contraction estimated in March.

Despite the better-than-expected growth data in the first three months of 2016, Abe may postpone a scheduled sales tax hike due in April 2017 as his government has struggled to revitalize long-term economic growth.

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Japan slips back to deflation as markets slide

US jobless rate slips below 5 per cent

Third-quarter US growth hits two-year high

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