Japan’s economy grew by a better-than-expected 1.1% in the final quarter of last year, according to official figures.
This is the equivalent of an annualised increase of 4.6%.
However, despite the growth in October to December, the economy contracted by 5% over the whole of 2009.
China now rivals Japan for the rank of the world’s second-biggest economy, and is on course to overtake Japan. China’s economy expanded by 8.7% in 2009.
“The Japanese population has become quite sober about themselves and relatively pessimistic about the country’s outlook,” said Takuji Okubo, chief economist at Societe Generale in Tokyo.
Japan’s return to growth has been led by exports, particularly to China, which is now its largest overseas market.