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Japans Retail Sales Fall for Third Straight Month

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Japanese retail sales fell for the third straight month in February as households kept a lid on expenditure amid the coronavirus emergency, underscoring the fragile nature of the economys recovery from last years slump.

Analysts expect Japans economy sharply contracted in the first quarter, as lacklustre consumer spending and weakening exports create challenges for policymakers who have already rolled out massive stimulus.

Retail sales lost 1.5 in February from a year earlier, government data showed on Tuesday, a smaller fall than the median market forecast for a 2.8 drop.

But it marked the third straight month of declines following Januarys 2.4 fall and a 0.2 drop in December.

That the coronavirus isnt subsiding is a major reason to worry about a delay of an economic recovery, said Atsushi Takeda, chief economist at Itochu Economic Research Institute.

Clothes arent selling because people arent going out, he said. People are not really returning to commercial facilities, the trend is for them to go shopping at supermarkets in their neighbourhoods.

The broader decline in retail sales was driven by falls in spending on items such as clothing, toiletries and general merchandise, the data showed.

Compared with the previous month, retail sales rose 3.1 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Separate data showed the nationwide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was steady at 2.9, lower than the median forecast of 3.0.

There were 1.09 jobs per applicant in February, down…

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