LOS ANGELES – The first part of Japan's economic data festival on Friday showed July consumer spending down sharply and unemployment just a little higher, but inflation in line with forecasts. Spending by housholds of two or more people fell a sharper-than-expected 5.9% in July compared to a year earlier, accelerating its downtrend from a 3% drop in June, though still not as bad as May's 8% plunge, the Finance Ministry said. A Wall Street Journal survey of economists had tipped a 2.9% decline. The same data report showed average monthly income down 6.2% from a year earlier in price-adjusted terms. Meanwhile, the jobless rate rose to 3.8%, while the economists had forecast the rate to stay at June's 3.7% level. Inflation, however, was in line with expectations. July's nationwide core consumer price index, which excludes volatile fresh-food prices, was 3.3% higher, identical to June's result. For central Tokyo, the core CPI was up an annualized 2.7% so far this month, also matching forecasts and down a touch from July's 2.8% gain. The Japanese yen held steady after the data, with the dollar at 103.68 yen. Industrial output and retail sales numbers were due out later in the morning.
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