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Japan's GDP fell 4% last quarter

The broadest measure of the world's second-largest economy sank at the fastest pace on record in the January to March quarter.

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(CNN) -- Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) fell 4% last quarter -- the fastest pace on record for the country, the government said Wednesday.

The January-March quarter for Japan was 15.4% lower than the same time period last year, according to figures released by the Cabinet Office. By comparison, January-March GDP in the United States was 6.1% lower this year than the same time period last year.

Japanese exports fell 26% for the quarter, while imports were down 15%.

The GDP slide in the world's second-largest economy is the greatest drop among the world's leading economies.

This was the fourth straight quarter the Japanese economy contracted. Analysts say the drop reflects cuts in domestic spending with job cuts, factory closings and less capital spending as a result of spiraling sales abroad.

The news punctuates a month of poor economic news out of Japan in recent weeks. Panasonic (PC), one of the world's largest makers of electronic devices, announced it lost nearly $4 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31. Hitachi (HIT) lost $8 billion in the fiscal year, with consolidated revenues down 11% from last year, the largest loss ever recorded by a Japanese manufacturer.

NEC Corporation lost $3 billion in the past fiscal year, down nearly 11.5% from last year. Meanwhile, Nissan (NSANY) lost $2.3 billion for the year. Sony Corp. (SNE) announced net losses of $1 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31, finishing a year in the red for the first time in 14 years. To top of page

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