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Japanese manufacturers optimistic about economy

TOKYO (AP) – A survey released Monday by Japan’s central bank has shown big improved business sentiments among big manufacturers in July-September for the second straight quarter.

The Bank of Japan’s “tankan” quarterly survey measured business sentiment among major manufacturers at plus 9, up from plus 5 in June.

Sentiment among major non-manufacturers rose four points to plus 27, in the sixth consecutive quarter of improvement and the most positive result in about three decades.

The tankan survey, conducted every three months, measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those replying they are positive.

Tourism, which has lifted the world’s third-largest economy in recent years, was hit by the pandemic. But incoming travelers have gradually returned to near pre-pandemic levels.

The negative effects of COVID-19 on supplies of computer chips and other key parts for manufacturers have also gradually eased, with production recovering, according to analysts.

“The recent cheap yen that came on top of the gradually improving supply chain is believed to have worked as a factor to brighten sentiments among big manufacturers,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Group.

For non-manufacturers, the return of foreign tourists and healthy domestic tourism during the summer holidays likely boosted sentiments, he said.

For the past decade, the Japanese economy has stagnated overall, with slow wage increases. Another negative has been soaring energy prices due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. That’s tough for Japan, which imports almost all its oil, at a time when the Japanese yen is weakening.

But the weak yen has worked as a positive, too, boosting the value of overseas earnings by exporters like Toyota and Nintendo. The dollar has been trading recently at about JPY149, up from below JPY130 in January.

For the tankan’s projection of business sentiment three months from now, large manufacturers are expecting an improvement of 1 point at plus 10.

What the Bank of Japan will do to interest rates in the coming months is being closely watched. The central bank has kept interest rates at zero or in minus territory for years to wrest Japan out of its economic doldrums. The BOJ is targeting stable price rises of 2 per cent.

People walk across a pedestrian crossing in the Ginza shopping district on March 31 in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

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