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The Abenomics trade is so 2013. Foreign investors haven’t been much interested in Japan lately, despite the strongest economy in two decades. What could turn that around, some market observers say, is a surprise revival of inflation.

While the official consumer price index rose at just half of policymakers’ 2 percent target in the latest reading, less-watched gauges suggest cost pressures are building. Prices paid by services companies are climbing the most since the early 1990s, as is worker compensation. Rents are accelerating in major cities, led by Tokyo.

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