May 30, 8:14 PM EDT

Japan reports that its factory output fell 3.5 percent in April from the same month a year earlier, while consumer spending also edged down


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TOKYO (AP) -- Japan reports that its factory output fell 3.5 percent in April from the same month a year earlier, while consumer spending also edged lower.

While the declines reported Tuesday were more moderate than the month before, suggesting a slight improvement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may point to such trends as reasons for the widely expected postponement of a sales tax hike next year.

Consumer spending fell 0.4 percent in April from a year earlier, while unemployment remained flat at 3.2 percent.

Earlier, the government reported that the consumer price index fell 0.3 percent in April for the second straight month of deflation. However, excluding both energy and volatile fresh foods, it rose 0.7 percent.

Abe's effort to vanquish deflation through monetary easing and public spending has made only faltering headway.

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