Japan's factory output fell by a bigger-than-expected 4.1% in September, the industry ministry said Tuesday, data likely to fuel worries about the world's third-biggest economy.
The decline was worse than an average market forecast of a 3.1% drop from the previous month, as a slump in cars, auto parts and machinery helped dent output amid a slowing in demand for Japanese exports and a diplomatic tussle with China that has hit the Asian giants' trade ties.
"Industrial production is on a downward trend," the ministry said.
The brief comment appeared stronger than last month when the ministry said that factory output "appeared to be weakening".
A manufacturers' survey released with the output data expected a 1.5% decline in October's factory output before rising 1.6% in November.
Separate figures released Tuesday showed that, while quake reconstruction spending after last year's disaster helped keep Japan's jobless rate steady at 4.2% in September, household spending slipped 0.9% on year.
The data come as the Bank of Japan (BoJ), under siege from politicians clamoring for urgent action on the slowing economy, holds a policy meeting later in the day that was expected to generate further easing measures.
With ultra-low interest rates already in the place, the central bank may tinker with its main policy tool -- an 80 trillion yen (US$1.0 trillion) asset-purchase program.
But earlier expansions of the program appear to have done little to kickstart Japan's economy, which was hammered by last year's quake-tsunami disaster.
The country recently posted its worst September trade figures in more than 30 years, as a territorial dispute with Beijing over an island chain in the East China Sea hurt exports, particularly of Japan-brand vehicles.