RTTNews - The Japanese economy contracted by a record 4 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the previous three months, the Cabinet Office said in a preliminary report on Wednesday, marking the fourth consecutive quarter of decline. That was still better than forecasts for a 4.4 percent decline after the revised 3.8 percent quarterly decline in Q4 of 2008.

On an annualized basis, GDP was down 15.2 percent, beating expectations for a 16.1 percent fall after the revised 14.4 percent contraction in the previous three months.

The Cabinet Office also revised the GDP numbers from 2008 Q4 to -3.8 percent on quarter and -14.4 annualized from the original 3.2 percent quarterly decline and 12.1 percent annualized fall.

Nominal GDP was off 2.9 percent on quarter versus forecasts for a 3.4 percent decline after the 1.6 percent fall in Q4. Private consumption was off 1.1 percent on quarter.

Imports dropped a record 15 percent on quarter, while exports were down 26 percent - also a record. Domestic demand was down 2.6 percentage points to growth, while external demand lost 1.4 percentage points to growth and private inventories shed 0.3 percentage points to growth.

Private capital outlays dropped a record 10.4 percent on quarter, while the GDP deflator came in 1.1 percent higher after the 0.7 percent gain in the previous three months.

Commenting on the data, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said that the drop in capex was particularly noteworthy, adding that the economic woes are shifting more from the corporate sector to the household sector.

For the fiscal year of 2008, GDP was down 3.5 percent.

Japan Finance and Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano added that he expects economic conditions to remain severe for the short term, although he is starting to see some positive signs.

The gross domestic product figures this time reflect how fast that the economy has worsened amid the global economic downturn, he said in a statement. On the other hand, signs of bottoming or improvement are seen in some areas of the economy, such as exports and industrial output.

Japan, the world's second-largest economy, is in its worst recession since the end of World War II and for the first time since the final three quarters of 2001.

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