Japan's Economy Has Hit Bottom Says Minister

Improving exports and production as well as increased public spending helping economy recover

In the January-March quarter Japan's economy hit bottom, according to Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano. "We can firmly presume that the economy hit the bottom," Yosano said after the government upgraded its monthly economic assessment saying there were signs of recovery.

"But there are things that Japan alone cannot control. Naturally downside risks exist, depending on the trend of the world economy," Yosano said, adding that the first quarter was "clearly the bottom."

His comment came as the Cabinet Office lifted its assessment for the second straight month in June, saying the economy was expected to pick up soon as exports and industrial production improve. "While the economy is in a difficult situation, signs of a pickup are seen in some areas," the report said.

Many private economists have already said the world's number two economy had probably hit the bottom and was slowly climbing out of its worst recession since World War II.

The government report also said Tokyo hoped that its stimulus packages as well as improvement overseas would help put Japan on a firmer path to recovery. However, the report also cited risk factors including worsening housing starts, falling capital expenditure and deteriorating employment. It also said that weak employment and private spending posed difficulties going ahead.

The government's view was largely echoed by the Bank of Japan, which also upgraded its evaluation, saying in its June report that the economy had "begun to stop worsening." Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa said on June 16 that the Japanese economy was in the process of hitting the bottom thanks to improving exports and production as well as increased public spending.

Looking forward, Shirakawa said uncertainty remained but the economy was likely to pick up.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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