Business confidence among major Japanese manufacturers fell to a 33-month low in the October-December period for the second straight quarterly deterioration on weak exports amid the prolonged European economic downturn and tensions with China over a territorial dispute, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) said Friday.
The central bank's quarterly survey showed the business sentiment index among Japan's big makers, a key indicator of Japanese business trends, dropped to minus 12 in December, compared with minus 3 in the previous September survey.
The index posted the second consecutive quarter of decline and the lowest since March 2010 when it was minus 14. "Tankan," which means short-term economic outlook, is Japan's most closely watched index of business confidence. The index represents the percentage of companies which are positive about their business minus the percentage of those who gave negative replies. A negative number means pessimists outnumber optimists. The index was particularly low among automobile and other export-related sectors.
The sentiment index for large auto manufacturers plunged by 28 to minus 9, the lowest reading since June 2011, due to the impact from the boycott of Japanese products in China over disputed islands in the East China and the termination of a government subsidy in September for the purchase of eco-friendly vehicles.
Confidence among large retailers, banks, real estate companies and other non-manufacturers also deteriorated for the first time in six quarters to plus 4 in the Oct-Dec period, down four points from plus 8 three months earlier. Large companies in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors plan to increase their capital investments by 6.8 percent in the current fiscal year ending March from the previous year.
Looking ahead, large manufacturers expect the index to improve to minus 10 in the next survey in March, while major non-manufacturers anticipate sentiment will worsen by 1 point to plus 3, the BOJ said.
The latest survey was conducted between Nov 13 and Dec 13, covering 10,654 companies, of which 99.3 percent responded.