TOKYO — Japan’s first-quarter gross domestic product grew 4.1 percent on an annualized basis, signaling a recovery for the world’s third-largest economy after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The growth for the January to March period outstripped expectations. Tokyo-based brokerage Nomura Securities said the market had been anticipating a 3.5 percent rise in GDP for the period.

Consumer spending rose 1.1 percent in the first quarter, according to the figures released Thursday by Japan’s Cabinet Office. Government subsidies that encouraged consumers to buy new environmentally friendly cars boosted spending.

Government spending spiked 5.4 percent in the quarter, reflecting the country’s post-tsunami reconstruction efforts.

“We view this as evidence that domestic growth momentum, which slowed considerably in the October-December period from the impact of flooding in Thailand and the economic slowdown overseas, picked up in the January-March period,” Nomura said in its research.

Nomura’s economists expressed concern over a 3.9 percent decline in capital spending but said they expect “strong” GDP growth to continue in the April-June quarter.

As of early afternoon Thursday, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index was gaining 0.45 percent and trading near a level of 8,840.59.


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