TOKYO -- The worst may be over for Japan's economy.
A rapid cool-down in global consumer demand for cars and electronic gadgets since last fall had pushed down Japan's exports sharply, throwing the nation in its worst recession since World War II. But recent indicators have shown that precipitous drops in exports and manufacturing output may be easing, raising hopes that the economy may begin to rebound, possibly as soon as the April-June quarter.
Some policy makers see the earnings figures reaffirming their cautiously optimistic assessments of the economy. In a speech Monday night, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald L. Kohn said the first three months of this year show that "consumption appears to have steadied some after a sharp drop" last summer and fall.