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Japan's household spending up in March ahead of tax increase

TOKYO--Japan's household spending jumped in March ahead of a sales tax rise while the jobless rate remained at its lowest level in more than six years, official data showed Friday.

Spending rose 7.2 percent year-on-year as consumers snapped up purchases before the April 1 tax rise to 8.0 percent from 5.0 percent, the internal affairs ministry said.

Japan's first sales tax rise in 17 years is seen as key to taming its huge national debt but there are fears it will hit consumer spending, denting the country's economic recovery.

Purchases of big-ticket items were markedly higher, with spending on refrigerators and vacuum cleaners more than quadrupling from a year earlier and air conditioners logging a five-fold jump.

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