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[TOKYO] Japanese manufacturing activity contracted in April for the first time in almost a year as domestic orders and output fell, which could fuel concerns that the country's modest economic recovery is losing momentum.
The Markit/JMMA flash Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell to a seasonally adjusted 49.7 in April from a final 50.3 in March.
The index fell below the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for the first time since May last year.
New orders fell to a preliminary 48.5 from 49.4 in March, contacting for a second straight month and at a faster clip.
The output index fell to 49.7 in April, its first contraction in nine months.
The index for new export orders also fell to a preliminary 51.0 from a final 52.0 in the previous month, but continued to expand as the weak yen helped improve Japanese exporters' price competitiveness.
The final Markit/JMMA PMI for April will be released on May 1.
The declines in manufacturing activity according to the PMI index are still relatively small, but government data on industrial output has already cast some doubt on the strength of the corporate sector.
Industrial output fell more than expected in February, and economists will pore over output data for March due next week to see if output recovers. Forecasts for the March data are not available yet.