Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged companies to increase wages faster than gains in the cost of living to break the legacy of 15 years of deflation, and praised Toyota Motor Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. for pledging to help.

"What we want is for wages to rise more than prices," Abe said in an interview in the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. "We want to enter a virtuous cycle as quickly as possible," where economic growth propels corporate profits, employers raise compensation and workers spend more, he said.

The Abe administration's reflation efforts have succeeded in stoking exporters' profits with a cheaper yen that's sent the Topix index of stocks heading for the best year since 1999, with a 46 percent surge so far in 2013. With consumer prices now rising at an annual pace of about 1 percent, higher wages will be needed to avoid hurting households that also face a 3-point bump in sales taxes in April plus a 2-point bump in 2015.