TOKYO―Confidence among Japan’s biggest manufacturers has risen for the third straight quarter to the best level in more than three years, a key central bank survey showed Monday as exports continue to grow.
The Bank of Japan’s Tankan report―a quarterly survey of more than 10,000 companies –showed a reading of 17 among major manufacturers, the highest since the first quarter of 2014.
The key index, which rose from 12 in the previous survey, also beat market expectations of a result around 15.
The better-than-expected Tankan would normally be good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been trying to revitalize Japan’s economy.
But the results came a day after his Liberal Democratic Party suffered a crushing defeat in elections for the Tokyo municipal assembly.
The vote was seen as a barometer of current public sentiment toward his government which has been beset by a series of scandals that have dented its support.
Abe swept to power in late 2012 on a pledge to cement a lasting recovery in the world’s third-largest economy with a growth plan eponymously dubbed Abenomics.
The scheme―a mix of aggressive monetary easing and huge government spending along with reforms to the economy―stoked a stock market rally as it weakened the yen and fattened corporate profits, but the effect on the wider economy has been less dramatic.
Recently the country’s prospects have been improving on the back of strong exports, with investments linked to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics also giving the economy a shot in the arm.
“The jump in the Tankan’s headline index for large manufacturers suggests that economic activity accelerated last quarter,” said Marcel Thieliant, senior Japan economist at Capital Economics.
“Capacity shortages have intensified and manufacturers are reporting the smallest declines in output prices since 2008,” he wrote in a commentary.
The latest survey also showed the average currency exchange rate expected by large manufacturers came in at 108.31 yen to the dollar for the year to March 2018, much stronger than current market rates.
As the actual rate is currently around 112 yen, “there appears to be room for sentiment to improve further, especially in manufacturing, in the September survey,” economists Yuichiro Nagai and Yukito Funakubo of Barclays said in a research note.