TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's core inflation rate slipped to 0.5 percent in 2015, as low oil prices hindered efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to spur growth by pushing prices higher.
Data released Friday also showed that consumer spending fell 4.4 percent in December from a year earlier, suggesting that households are choosing to save rather than splurge on any gains from the low oil prices that are slowing inflation. It was the fourth straight month of year-on-year declines.
Average incomes fell 2.9 percent in December from a year earlier, while the jobless rate was steady at 3.3 percent. Unemployment for all of 2015 was 3.4 percent.
Abe took office three years ago vowing to get growth in the world's third-largest economy back on track through massive injections of cash by the government and central bank, and by sweeping reforms to boost competitiveness.
The aim was to end a long spell of deflation, or falling prices, that was thought to be discouraging corporate investment. But while corporate profits have soared as massive stimulus weakened the Japanese yen, making earnings made abroad worth more when they are brought back home, investment and wages have lagged.
With incomes still stagnant, consumer spending has also fallen short of expectations, while slowing growth in China has sapped exports.
Since inflation is still far short of the official 2 percent target, speculation has risen that the central bank may opt for still more monetary stimulus sometime soon. But most economists say they do not expect a major change in policy from the Bank of Japan policy meeting that wraps up Friday.
Core inflation excluding volatile food prices was flat at 0.1 percent in December, though excluding both food and energy the consumer price index was 0.8 percent in December and 1 percent for all of 2015.