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The nation’s gross domestic product growth in fiscal 2003 may exceed the government forecast of 0.6 percent, with stronger economic activity coming in the latter half of the year, Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said Tuesday.

“I have hopes that we will be able to release a figure slightly above 0.6 percent next March,” Shiokawa told a news conference.

He cited stronger activity in the corporate sector as well as recent stock price gains as good signs for the economy.

The minister said he believes the recent climb in stock prices, which has lifted the benchmark Nikkei average to the 9,000 level from its 20-year low of 7,607.88 in late April, is not a temporary phenomenon.