But since then deflation has intensified and the Japanese currency, the yen, has strengthened against the dollar, pushing up the cost of Japanese exports.

Questions about the future of export demand as the effect of global stimulus measures wanes have also added to corporate unease.

The data is based on figures from 280 manufacturers polled by Japan's Cabinet Office, but excludes orders from shipbuilders and electric power companies which tend to fluctuate more.

Growth revised

The statement follows Wednesday's surprise announcement that the country's economy grew much more slowly in the third quarter of this year than originally estimated.

According to revised government data, the world's number two economy grew at an annual pace of just 1.3 per cent, compared with the previous preliminary estimate of 4.8 per cent.

Officials said the revision stemmed largely from a misreading of capital investment data which was found to have fallen by 2.8 per cent from the previous quarter after the government incorporated additional data.

Capital investment measures spending by companies on equipment, factories and other assets.

The Cabinet Office had initially estimated that companies increased spending by 1.6 per cent.