Japanese consumer confidence fell at the fastest pace on record in April from the previous month, data showed Monday, after March's earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear crisis cast a shadow on the economy.
The data showed consumer sentiment worsening to a two-year low of 33.1 in April from 38.6 in March, when the index plunged after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake and a tsunami on March 11 that devastated the northeast coast.
Readings below 50 indicate pessimism outweighing optimism.
The 5.5 point drop month-on-month was the sharpest since records began in April 2004, according to the government.
Although sales of water and food surged after people stockpiled immediately after the quake and the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, consumers have held off spending on areas such as entertainment and travel.
Analysts have warned that voluntary self restraint by consumers will exacerbate any downturn.
Japan's consumer confidence has remained below its pre-financial crisis levels and retail sales slumped last year after government subsidies for car purchases were withdrawn and incentives to purchase appliances were reduced.
Many see Japan sliding into a temporary recession after the quake and tsunami devastated infrastructure and manufacturing facilities in the northeast, as the nation plunged into its worst crisis since World War II.
Japan will report gross domestic product data for the January-March period on Thursday, and economists expect to see the second-straight quarterly contraction due to the impact of the disasters.