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Japan’s GDP Shrinks Most Since 1974 Oil Shock

Japan's economy shrank at an annual 12.7 percent pace last quarter, the most since the 1974 oil shock

Gross domestic product fell for a third straight quarter in the three months ended Dec. 31, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. The median estimate of 26 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for an 11.6 percent contraction.

Exports plunged an unprecedented 13.9 percent from the third quarter as demand for Corolla cars and Bravia televisions collapsed amid a slump that the Group of Seven nations said will persist for most of 2009.

Toyota Motor Corp., Sony Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. - all of which forecast losses - are firing thousands of workers, heightening the risk a decline in household spending will prolong the recession.

“The economy is in terrible shape and the scary part is that we’re likely to see a similar drop this quarter,” said Seiji Adachi, a senior economist at Deutsche Securities Inc. in Tokyo. “All we can do is wait for overseas demand to pick up.”

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.2 percent at the lunch break in Tokyo, extending the year’s losses to 12 percent.

The yen rose to 91.62 per dollar from 91.76 on speculation Japan will refrain from taking measures to weaken the currency. The yen’s 18 percent gain over the past year has compounded exporters’ woes by eroding the value of their overseas sales.

Japan has been in a recession since November 2007, according to a government panel that dates the economic cycle. The Sept. 15 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. worsened a credit crisis that erased more than $14 trillion from global equity markets and paralyzed world trade.

Yosano said the government has no plans to compile additional stimulus measures before next fiscal year’s budget is passed. Parliamentary gridlock has blocked the passage of Prime Minister Taro Aso’s 10 trillion yen ($111 billion) package, helping his popularity slide ahead of elections due by September.

Source: Bloomberg