The government on Thursday downgraded its assessment of a key indicator of economic trends, suggesting Japan may have already entered a recession rather than marking its longest growth phase since the end of World War II, as previously believed.

The Cabinet Office's coincident index of business conditions for January was down 2.7 points from the previous month at 97.9 against the 2015 base of 100. It was the index's third consecutive decline, prompting the office to say that it was "signaling a possible turning point." Prior to that, the office had said conditions were "weakening."

Toshimitsu Motegi, minister for economic and fiscal policy, said in January that the most recent growth phase from December 2012 had likely surpassed the Izanami Boom, a 73-month streak from 2002 to 2008.