Japan’s economy has enjoyed its longest unbroken run of growth in more than a decade, official figures reveal.
The world’s third-largest economy grew by 1% during the April to June quarter – up from 0.4% between January and March, and well ahead of the 0.6% forecast by economists.
On an annualised basis, the Japanese economy grew by 4%, significantly ahead of the 2.5% pencilled in by forecasters.
It was the strongest quarter of growth since the first quarter of 2015.
It means Japan is growing faster than the likes of the United States, whose economy grew by just 2.6% on an annualised basis during the same period, and appreciably faster than the UK.
Japan’s economy has now grown for sixth successive quarters, the longest growth streak it has enjoyed since 2006, representing a triumph for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in 2012 promising a revival.
The country has endured two so-called ‘lost decades’ since the Tokyo stock market peaked at the end of the 1980s and, until recently, no government seemed capable of halting the decline.
Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s new economic and fiscal policy minister, said the stronger-than-expected growth reflected continued strength in consumer spending and business investment. This helped offset weaker demand for Japanese exports.
Household spending has picked up during the last year or so due to a modest rise in average earnings, following years of stagnation, reflecting Japan’s extremely low level of unemployment.
However, Mr Motegi warned that while he expected domestic demand to carry on growing, Japan still needed to improve productivity as its population continues to fall.
He added: “What is needed is supply-side reform. We’ll focus our efforts on human resource investment, improvement in productivity and new growth strategies.”
Fewer than one million babies were born in Japan last year, for the first time since the 1970s, while the number of deaths increased to 1.3 million.
This decline in population is expected to accelerate in coming years with some forecasters suggesting that, between now and 2050, the population could shrink by one-third from the current 125 million in a country that remains hostile to immigration.
Despite the figures, the Nikkei 225 stock index fell by just under 1%, amid concerns from economists that the current growth rate is unsustainable. The index has risen by 15% during the last year.