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Wholesale prices in 2010 eased 0.2 percent from a year earlier, falling for the second straight year as the country remained under persistent deflationary pressure, the Bank of Japan’s preliminary data showed Friday.

But the prices, measured in the central bank’s corporate goods price index, sharply slowed their pace of decline from the record 5.2 percent logged in 2009, signaling the drop in the index has “nearly halted,” according to a BOJ official.

In December alone, wholesale prices grew 1.2 percent from a year earlier for the third straight monthly rise, higher than the average market forecast of a 1.0 percent increase.

Noting that prices of petroleum products and nonferrous metals pushed up the index in December, the official said, “Whether the rise in prices of overseas (commodity) markets will gradually affect domestic prices will be a key point when looking at the outlook.”

In 2010, transportation equipment, information and communications equipment and other electrical products made a large contribution to the fall amid tough price competition in the domestic market, the official said.

Prices of transportation equipment fell 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, prices of petroleum and coal products grew 15.7 percent.

The index stood at 102.8 against the 2005 base of 100, the BOJ said. The last losing streak was logged for three consecutive years from 2001 to 2003.

Japan’s export prices in 2010 fell 2.5 percent from a year earlier in yen terms and rose 2.3 percent on a contract currency basis.

Import prices grew 7.1 percent in yen terms, while rising 13.1 percent on a contract currency basis.

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