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An easing of Covid-19 restrictions led to an increase in consumer spending and a rebound in the Japanese economy in the last three months of 2021, although the rebound was less strong than in the United States.

Japan’s gross domestic product rose 5.4% at an annualized rate in the October-December period, figures released by the firm on Tuesday showed. A consensus of analysts polled by Reuters expected 5.8%.

But analysts warned the rebound likely petered out after December, when the Omicron variant of the coronavirus began to take hold, the yen weakened and rising oil prices began to weigh on a Japanese economy. dependent on energy and food imports.

On a quarterly basis, the Japanese economy rebounded 1.3% after falling 0.7% in the July-September period.

The government lifted the state of emergency at the end of September, triggering a return to work for many employees and a relaunch of lunch and after-work meals © Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than half of Japan’s GDP, rose 2.7% as the restaurant, entertainment and travel sectors benefited from historically low rates of new Covid-19 infections.

This took it to a higher level than the last three months of 2019. For 2021 as a whole, the country’s economy grew by 1.7%, turning positive for the first time in three years.

“Omicron has since taken the breath away from the economy,” said Tom Learmouth, Japan economist at Capital Economics. “But with daily cases declining and the recall rollout finally up to date, the tailwinds should return in the second quarter.”

He added: “Assuming no new concerning variants emerge, we expect a 1.5% increase in quarter-on-quarter GDP in the second quarter and a further increase of 1% in the second quarter. third quarter to get the economy back on its pre-pandemic path.

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