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May 17, 2022, 8:58 p.m. EDT

Japan’s economy contracts slightly in first quarter

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Megumi Fujikawa

TOKYO — Japan’s economy contracted in the first three months of the year, when restrictions related to  a resurgence of COVID-19 infections  held back consumer spending.

The world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China contracted 0.2% from  the previous quarter , compared with a 0.4% contraction expected by economists surveyed by data provider Quick.

The economy shrank 1% on an annualized basis, showing what would happen if the first quarter’s pace continued for a full year.

Japan has struggled to achieve continuous growth since the Covid-19 pandemic began. In contrast to the U.S., China, and major European economies, the Japanese economy has yet to recover its prepandemic level.

In the January-March quarter, exports rose 1.1% from the previous quarter. Economists said the pace of the export recovery remained slow due to continued supply shortages. Imports increased 3.4% because of demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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