Japan’s factory output rebounded in December, offering further evidence that the sputtering economy has returned to growth, potentially removing a hurdle for the Bank of Japan as it mulls the timing of a likely interest rate hike.

Industrial production gained 1.8% from November, after falling the previous month, as output of machinery and chemicals expanded, the industry ministry said Wednesday. That was the biggest gain since June, though smaller than a consensus view for a 2.5% increase.

A separate report gave a gloomier picture of the economy as retail sales fell 2.9% from November, leaving them 2.1% above year-earlier levels and casting doubt on the strength of domestic demand as inflation bites into household budgets.