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Monthly Industrial Output Slightly Better In Japan

Both parties have pushed the Bank of Japan for stronger action to boost growth, with Abe urging that the central bank be held responsible for meeting an inflation target of at least 2 percent. Such calls worry many in Japan who fear the LDP might undermine the central bank's autonomy and further erode the country's already weakening fiscal health.

Industrial output rose 1.8 percent in October from September, though it fell 4.3 percent from a year earlier. Consumer prices were flat at 0 percent, but that was an improvement over the previous month's minus 0.1 percent.

Still, the better-than-expected industrial production data suggest the downturn could be bottoming out late this year, helped by a stronger U.S. economy, said Nishioka of RBS Japan.

"The main driver of the recovery is overseas demand, though there is still a downside risk from China," she said.

October brought no improvement in labor conditions, with unemployment unchanged at 4.2 percent and the ratio of jobs available falling to 80 per 100 jobseekers from 81 the month before.

Tensions over a territorial dispute with China have bitten into exports that already were limping due to weak global growth and the prolonged strength of the Japanese yen against other currencies, which makes them relatively expensive in overseas markets.

Meanwhile, the consumer demand that is a major driver of growth has remained anemic: Retail sales fell 1.2 percent in October from a year earlier, the government reported Thursday. A slight improvement in seasonally adjusted terms was mainly due to rising prices for food and energy, thanks to rising electricity rates and gas prices.

Weak spending on cars and consumer appliances suggests consumer sentiment is weakening due to worries over job prospects, Capital Economics said in a research note. It argued in favor of longer-term structural reforms to nurture growth, given Japan's massive government debt, which is more than twice the country's gross domestic product.

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