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The nation’s core consumer prices fell a record 0.7 percent in May from a year earlier, while Tokyo prices fell 0.6 percent in June, down for a record 22nd straight month, the government said Friday.

The nationwide price data and the preliminary figure for Tokyo’s 23 wards, a leading indicator, underscore the government’s assessment that consumer prices are weakening, it said.

Heizo Takenaka, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, said the latest reading clearly indicates prices are falling but added that does not mean the economy has entered a deflationary spiral.

The decline should be seen as a phenomenon that has arisen in the course of technological advancements and adjustments with international prices, Takenaka told a news conference.

Nationwide consumer prices, excluding volatile rates for perishables, have fallen for 20 months in a row.

The drop was the largest since comparative data became available in 1971, the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry said.

Excluding perishables, Tokyo consumer prices fell 0.7 percent in June to an index reading of 100.3 against the 1995 base of 100, down for the 21st month in a row.

Of perishables, nationwide prices of stone leeks surged 10.3 percent in May from a year earlier, compared with April’s 5.2 percent gain, and those of shiitake rose 2.9 percent against a fall of 0.5 percent in April, a ministry official said.

Although the prices of these vegetables usually rise in this season, the effects of Japan’s “safeguard” emergency import curbs invoked on April 23 against the two agricultural products, plus straw for tatami mats, cannot be denied, the official said.

Including perishables, Tokyo’s June CPI came to 100.0, down for the 22nd month, and the nationwide CPI fell 0.5 percent in May to 101.3.

A smaller rise in housing rents contributed the most to dragging down nationwide prices for May, while a smaller drop in rents helped reduce the margin of the June fall in Tokyo prices, the official said.

The official said demand for rented housing differs between big cities like Tokyo and other parts of the country, with demand in Tokyo being slower due to a tendency for people to buy condominiums.

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