Japan’s key consumer price index fell 1.2 per cent in March from a year earlier, making it the 13th consecutive month of decline, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said Friday.

Falling prices have been a major concern for the world’s second-largest economy, suggesting persistent deflationary pressure in Japan.

The index, which excludes volatile fresh food prices, stood at 99.5 against a base of 100 for 2005, the ministry said.

The index for the financial year that ended March 31 stood at 100, a 1.6—per—cent drop from the previous year, the ministry said.

The ministry also said in a separate report that average monthly spending by Japanese households in March rose 4.4 per cent from a year earlier to 319,991 yen (3,406 dollars)as government incentives persuaded more consumers to buy cars, televisions and personal computers. The average monthly income of salaried households stood at 439,410 yen, up 0.4 per cent in real terms, posting the second—consecutive month of increase, the ministry said. Japan’s industrial production rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 per cent in March from the previous month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report.

The average market forecast was for a 0.8—per—cent increase in a survey by the Kyodo News agency.

Industrial production stood at 94 in March against a base of 100 for 2005, the ministry said.

The index of industrial shipments climbed 1.6 per cent to 96.3 and that of industrial inventories fell 1.6 per cent to 94, the ministry said.

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