TOKYO — Japan’s growth slowed to a crawl in the three months that ended in September, as a weakening global economy and trade conflicts threatened its fragile streak of economic expansion.
Japan’s economy — the third largest after the United States and China — grew at an annualized rate of 0.2 percent in the third quarter, according to data released on Thursday by the country’s Cabinet Office. The results were below the expectations of economists, who had predicted that growth would slow, but less quickly.
The performance was a sharp drop from the previous quarter, when the economy grew at a revised rate of 1.8 percent, a stronger-than-expected result that suggested the country’s economy was more resilient than many analysts had expected.
Japan’s export-led economy has been struggling to maintain momentum in the face of slowing global growth and the knock-on effects of the trade war between the United States and China.
China is a major purchaser of Japanese components, which it uses to assemble finished goods to sell to the rest of the world, and sales of Japanese goods and services to China and other countries have declined steeply over the last year.
Nevertheless, Japan’s economy has continued to defy concerns that it could teeter into recession, buoyed by relatively strong domestic consumption and capital expenditures.
Consumers rushed to purchase big-ticket items ahead of an October tax increase on most goods and services to 10 percent from 8 percent.
The new revenues are intended to help pay down the country’s enormous debt — almost two and a half times its annual economic output — and finance its growing public welfare costs as its population grays. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeatedly delayed the move over concerns that the sudden jump in prices could damage the economy.
The increase is expected to further slow growth in the months ahead, although the government has put into place measures that are intended to dull the impact.
Thursday’s results will put additional pressure on Mr. Abe to look for economic stimulus measures to ensure the country does not slip into recession.
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