Japan's core consumer prices edged up year-on-year in December for the fourth month in a row, buoyed partly by higher energy prices, government data showed today.

The core consumer price index, which excludes volatile fresh food prices but includes fuel costs, was up 0.5% in December, following similar rises from September to November.

The advance follows 18 months of declines or stagnation during the depths of the pandemic, but fell slightly short of economist expectations for a 0.6%rise.

Excluding fuel costs, prices were down 0.7% from a year earlier, according to the figures from the internal affairs ministry.

For the whole of 2021, consumer prices were down 0.2%.

While many countries are battling higher inflation, Tokyo is still struggling to even approach the long-held 2% target, seen as key to turbo-charging the world's third-largest economy.

This week, Japan's central bank revised its inflation forecast, citing a rise in commodity prices and the resulting impact on consumer prices.

It also declared the risks to prices "generally balanced," compared to its previous assessment that they were "skewed to the downside."

"It's clear that price pressures in Japan remain much weaker than elsewhere," Capital Economics' senior Japan economist Marcel Thieliant said in a note.

"We expect underlying inflation to peak at around 1% towards the end of this year," he added.