Japanese wage growth strengthened less than expected in December while still showing signs of sufficient underlying momentum to keep the Bank of Japan on track to end its negative rate regime in the coming months.

Nominal cash earnings rose 1.0% in December from the previous year with the help of a 0.5% gain in winter bonuses, the labor ministry reported Tuesday. It was an acceleration versus a month earlier but trailed analysts’ expectations of a 1.4% gain. Growth was modest compared with a year earlier, when special allowances pushed up nominal wages by the biggest margin in 26 years.

In a brighter sign, data for full-time workers that avoid sampling problems and exclude bonuses and overtime pay showed growth of 2%, hitting that threshold or above for a fourth consecutive month.