Japanese gross domestic product shrank 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 on an interannual basis, its third consecutive quarterly decline, the government said Thursday.

The economy expanded by 1.9 percent last year compared with 2011, according to the report from the Cabinet office.

The consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by the Kyodo news agency called for a 0.6 rise in GDP in October-December 2012.

Even so, the figure for the final three months of the year marked an improvement over the third quarter, when GDP fell 3.5 percent compared with the same period in 2011.

Consumer spending rose by 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter and real estate investment climbed 3.5 percent, but business investment dropped 2.6 percent.

Exports, which account for 40 percent of Japan in the world's third-largest economy, declined 3.7 percent in final quarter of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. EFE