TOKYO (AP) - Japanese machinery orders rose in April for the first time in three months but at a slower-than-expected pace, the government said Friday, prompting concerns about the outlook for business investment in the world's second-largest economy.
Core machinery orders rose 2.2 percent in April from March, helped by orders from non-manufacturers such as financial firms and insurers, the Cabinet Office said.
The rise undershot economists' forecast for 4.4 percent rise. Moreover, unadjusted core orders in April plunged 9.0 percent from the year-earlier month - the biggest fall since a 9.9 percent drop in October 2004.
Machinery orders are widely regarded as a leading indicator of corporate capital investment, which accounts for about 15 percent of Japan's gross domestic product.
Still, the data marked the first on-month rise since January, rebounding from a 4.5 percent fall in March and a 4.9 percent drop in February, and analysts were optimistic that machinery orders will likely get back into an uptrend in the near future.
''Whereas current machinery orders data appear to show a near-term slowdown in capital investment, the overall trend of business investment is still solid,'' said Satoru Ogasawara, an economist at Credit Suisse.
The data excludes often volatile orders from utilities and for ships.