Associated Press
FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2013 file photo, a man walks past an electronic stock indicator of a securities firm in Tokyo. Japan's economy remained mired in recession late last year, shrinking 0.4 percent in annualized terms for the third straight quarter of contraction on feeble demand both at home and overseas, the government reported Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

TOKYO — Japan's economy shrank in the last three months of 2012, its third straight quarter of contraction, giving the government ammunition to defend its "weak yen" strategy as necessary to getting growth back on track.

The 0.4 percent contraction in annualized terms in October-December was worse than expected. Many analysts had forecast the economy would emerge from recession in the final quarter of 2012 as the Japanese yen weakened against other major currencies, giving a boost to Japanese export manufacturers.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga acknowledged the lingering weakness in the economy, while voicing optimism over a global recovery.

"We also expect our nation's economy to make a gradual recovery," he said Thursday.