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Japan business confidence hits 6-year high: BoJ

TOKYO--Japanese business confidence has soared to a six-year high, the country's central bank said Monday, underscoring growing optimism among major companies despite a slowdown in the world's third-largest economy.

The Bank of Japan's (BoJ) quarterly Tankan survey, which polled more than 10,500 firms, surged to its strongest level since December 2007, with a reading for large manufacturers rising to plus 16 from plus 12 in September.

The non-manufacturers' index also jumped to plus 20 from plus 14, the best reading in more than six years. The numbers represent the percentage of respondents saying conditions are good minus those who say they are poor.

Some analysts expect BoJ policymakers will unleash further easing measures to boost the slowing economy, highlighting the challenges Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces in his bid to stoke growth with government spending and monetary policy, a blitz dubbed Abenomics.

“It's not only the large, export-oriented companies that are benefiting from Abenomics,” Capital Economics said, referring to the BoJ survey results.

“For the first time since the early 1990s, the number of small companies that regard business conditions as favorable exceeds the number of companies that consider them unfavorable.”

However, the survey also showed that big firms are cutting back on their capital spending plans for the fiscal year to March. Corporate investment is a cornerstone of Abe's plan to reverse years of deflation which has weighed on consumer spending and, in turn, producers.

The country's once-anemic economy had been outpacing other G7 nations in the first half of the year as Tokyo's growth drive helped push down the yen, boosting exporters and sparking a stock market rally.

But Japan's third-quarter economic growth came in at a final reading of 0.3 percent, down from an initial figure of 0.5 percent — and a sharp slowdown from 0.9 percent expansion in the previous quarter.

On an annualized basis, which stretches the data across a full year, growth was 1.1 percent in the quarter against an initial reading of 1.9 percent.

The United States is now out-performing Japan, expanding at a revised 3.6-percent annualized rate in the third quarter.

The BoJ survey did little to boost investor sentiment, with Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closing down 1.62 percent.

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Commuters walk through the concourse of a railway station in Tokyo on Monday, Dec. 16. A quarterly survey of business sentiment by Japan's central bank released on Monday shows that manufacturers are more upbeat about the state of the world's third-largest economy under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recovery program.

(AP)

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