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>> Japan's economy ended its best run of growth in decades at the start of this year, a big blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Abenomics policies. New numbers on Wednesday showed the economy shrank by more than 0.6%. It marked the end to eight straight quarters of economic expansions, the longest streak since the country's boom years in the 1980s.
Experts say the contraction is just temporary. It's linked to a decline in investment and consumption at home, along with weaker exports abroad. But there's still a risk. Trade friction with the US could hit what Japan sells to America. That means a recovery may not be guaranteed. A lot of Japan's high-tech exports, mobile device components, and factory machinery go to China, and Trump's threatened tariffs on Chinese exports could also bring economic trouble to Japan.
The figures highlighted Japan's vulnerability to economic shock. Five years of economic stimulus has left the country with little ammunition to boost growth. The contraction could make Japan's politicians less likely to introduce a planned hike in sales tax of 2% scheduled for next year. A similar rise in sales tax in 2014 caused a big drop in consumer spending and tipped Japan's economy into recession.