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Japan economic growth halves in September quarter

Tokyo Japan said on Thursday that growth halved in the July-September quarter as exports weakened and consumer spending slowed, but analysts were divided over what the figure meant for Tokyo's drive to fire up the economy.

The once-anaemic economy has lately been growing faster than other G7 nations as a policy blitz led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe helped push down the yen, giving a boost to exporters and sparking a stock market rally.

That has stoked optimism over Japan's prospects. But official data Thursday showed the world's third-largest economy expanded at an annualised rate of 1.9 percent in the last quarter, a marked slowdown from the 3.8 percent rise in the

previous three months.

However, the figure is higher than the 1.7 percent increase forecast in a poll of economists by the Wall Street Journal. Tokyo's Nikkei stock index closed up 2.12 percent, helped by a weakening yen.
On a quarter-on-quarter basis the economy grew 0.5 percent, slightly higher than expectations but well down from the 0.9 percent increase in the previous three months.

The figures mean Japan's headline-grabbing growth in the first half of the year has now fallen behind the US economy, which expanded at a 2.8 percent annualised rate in the three months to September.

Analysts have been warning that Tokyo's bold pro-growth programme -- a mix of big government spending and central bank monetary easing -- is not enough on its own without promised economic reforms.

The proposed shake-up, including loosening rigid labour laws and signing wide-ranging free trade deals, are seen as key to ushering in lasting change in an economy plagued by years of deflation.

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