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Average monthly household spending rose a real 1.1 percent in April from a year earlier to 316,163 yen for the fourth straight month of increase, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said the rise reflects robust spending on household durables and hiked university tuition payments.

“Consumption is bright, but we cannot say it is strong at this stage,” a ministry official said. She said increased outlays for durable goods and various services in April may not last long.

Spending on education led the April advance with 15.3 percent growth, while outlays on furniture and household utensils gained 9.0 percent.

The official said tuition payments for private universities rose in April compared with a year earlier as more people now pay the fees after the new school year starts, rather than in March.

Outlays for household goods, including furniture, gas appliances and refrigerators, rose in April with the start of the new school and business years.

Spending on health and medical care rose 5.6 percent, as expensive items such as massage chairs for home use gained popularity and spending on medical service costs expanded due to an increase in flu infections.

Meanwhile, the average monthly income of salaried households was unchanged at 472,446 yen in April, after rising for six months in a row.

Disposable income shrank 0.4 percent to 399,535 yen for the first decline in six months.

Household spending data are a key indicator for personal spending, which accounts for about 55 percent of Japan’s gross domestic product.

Retail sales dip

Retail sales shrank 0.6 percent in April from a year earlier to 11.19 trillion yen for the seventh straight month of decline, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Tuesday.

The contraction was led by slumping sales of automobiles, down 6.9 percent. Fuel sales fell 1.2 percent and those of machinery equipment dropped 1.7 percent, but food and beverage sales rose 1.3 percent, METI said in a preliminary report.

Despite the fall, the ministry left its assessment of retail sales unchanged from the previous month, saying retail sales are “almost flat.”

Sales by wholesalers meanwhile grew 5.6 percent to 38.81 trillion yen, up for the 35th straight month, the report says.

Combined wholesale and retail sales increased 4.1 percent to 50 trillion yen, also up for the 35th consecutive month.

Overall sales by large supermarkets and department stores declined 0.8 percent to 1.69 trillion yen for the second straight month of contraction.

Department store sales sagged 2.9 percent to 659.8 billion yen, down for the seventh straight month. However, supermarket sales climbed 0.7 percent to 1.03 trillion yen, rising four months in a row.

Convenience store sales rose 1.6 percent to 603.4 billion yen, up for the seventh consecutive month.

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