Wednesday's data marked the end to eight straight quarters of economic expansion, which was the longest sequence of growth since a 12-quarter run between April-June 1986 and January-March 1989 during the asset-inflated bubble economy. But experts said they expected a pause in the growth trend rather than a prolonged downswing.
The slight decline at the beginning of the year came as a blow to the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is already under pressure over a series of scandals.
Also, the yen strengthened against other major currencies on safe-haven buying, clouding the prospects for Japanese exporters.
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Private residential investment plunged another 2.1% after a 2.7% fall in the previous quarter.
"The economy is unlikely to continue to contract further".
Private consumption was flat on a quarterly basis, in line with expectations after adding 0.2% in the three months prior.
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Exports rose 0.6 percent.
Given Japan's reliance on export-led growth, trade friction brought on by President Donald Trump's efforts to trim the perennial USA trade deficit has raised uncertainty over the outlook for the economy.
Katsunori Kitakura, lead strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Group, also believed the disappointing first quarter figure was "a one-off event, as weak personal consumption coincided with other special factors".
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"Globally, IT-related items have been in an adjustment phase, which weighed down Japan's exports and factory output", said Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities. But with wage increases lagging inflation, consumer spending has remained flat, the latest data showed.