Japan's consumer prices fell for the first time in five months in March, underlining the Bank of Japan's struggle to spark sustained price increases and likely adding to expectations that the central bank could take further easing action later in the day.
Core consumer prices, which exclude volatile prices of fresh food, fell 0.3% in March from a year earlier, according to government data released Thursday. Economists polled by the Nikkei and the Wall Street Journal had expected the core CPI to fall 0.2% in March.
Many market participants and analysts have predicted that the BOJ will expand its easing program at a two-day monetary policy meeting that ends Thursday as its 2% inflation target remains elusive even after three years of massive easing.
Excluding both food and energy, consumer prices rose 0.7% on year in March, down from 0.8% in February. Meanwhile, household spending dropped 5.3% on year in March, falling more than a 4.2% decline forecast by polled economists.