Economic sentiment improves in December on brisk holiday sales


Business confidence among people with jobs sensitive to economic conditions improved in December, the government said Tuesday.

Confidence fell in November but a year-end uptick took place amid brisk sales at Christmas and New Year’s.

The diffusion index of sentiment on the country’s current economic situation among so-called “economy watchers,” such as shop clerks, taxi drivers and restaurant employees, rose 2.6 points from a month earlier to 48.7, the Cabinet Office said.

The government kept its assessment of the economy unchanged, saying it is “recovering moderately.”

The diffusion index is based on whether respondents believe economic conditions have improved or worsened over the past three months. A reading of 50 indicates that those polled generally believe economic conditions are flat.

A Cabinet Office official said the negative impact of relatively warm weather on sales of winter items seen in November waned in the reporting month as temperatures dropped to the seasonal average in the latter half of the month.

Despite the solid readings, “many watchers took a cautious stance over the outlook as it is uncertain whether such an upbeat trend will continue,” said the official.

The index for the direction of economic conditions in the coming few months was unchanged at 48.2 in December.

The Cabinet Office surveyed 2,050 workers nationwide from Dec. 25 to 31, of whom 1,819, or 88.7 percent, responded.

Another survey, also released by the office Tuesday, showed Japan’s consumer confidence improved in December for the third consecutive month.

The seasonally adjusted index of sentiment among households of two or more people increased 0.1 point to 42.7, it said.

The government left its basic assessment of the index unchanged, saying consumer confidence “shows signs of picking up.”

The survey polls consumers on the economic outlook for the upcoming six months.

Among all four components of the sentiment index in December, consumers’ view of their livelihoods rose 0.2 point to 41.1 and their assessment of income growth climbed 0.7 point to 41.8.

In contrast, their view on employment conditions fell 0.4 point to 46.3, while that on their readiness to buy new durable goods was flat at 41.6.

In the reporting month, 81.1 percent of households said they expect consumer prices to rise in the year ahead, down 1 point from the previous month, apparently reflecting continued lower oil prices, the survey showed.

The Cabinet Office survey, conducted around Dec. 15, covered 8,400 households, with valid responses received from 5,493, or 65.4 percent.