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Consumer sentiment in Japan deteriorated in December, down for the first time in four months, amid growing fears about the omicron variant of the coronavirus, a government survey showed Wednesday.

In the Cabinet Office survey conducted from Dec. 7 to 20, the seasonally adjusted index measuring sentiment among households with two or more members fell 0.1 point from the previous month to 39.1.

“While the domestic infection situation was relatively calm, the overseas spread of the (omicron) variant contributed to anxiety,” an official from the government agency said.

The agency maintained its basic assessment that consumer sentiment is picking up.

Of the sentiment index’s four component indicators, those for overall livelihood and income growth rose, while that for employment fell. The indicator for people’s willingness to buy durable goods stood unchanged.

The survey also showed that the proportion of respondents who expect prices to be higher in a year’s time rose 0.9 percentage point to 88.5%, the highest level since April 2015. The result can be attributed to a spate of food price hikes.

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