Japan's core private-sector machinery orders, a leading indicator of corporate capital spending, fell by more than expected in the month before a massive earthquake, data showed on Monday.
Core machinery orders fell 2.3 percent from a month earlier in February, with the bigger-than-expected fall during pre-quake conditions raising concerns about the severity of the March 11 quake's impact in the months to come.
The first fall in three months compares with the median forecast for a 1.1-percent fall in a poll of economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei.
"If February is this bad, post-quake March will be even more severe," Okasan Securities strategist Hideyuki Ishiguro told Dow Jones Newswires.
The negative core data, which exclude volatile demand from power companies and for ships, followed rises of 4.2 percent in January and 1.7 percent in December, the Cabinet Office said.