Business sentiment at large companies declined slightly for the July-September quarter for the first deterioration in three quarters, according to a quarterly survey the Finance Ministry released Thursday.

The business sentiment index for firms capitalized at 1 billion yen or more declined to minus 9.7 for the July-September period from minus 8.8 in the April-June period, according to the survey, which was conducted in August.

The index for midsize firms, defined as those capitalized at between 100 million yen and 1 billion yen, came to minus 16.9, unchanged from the previous quarter.

In contrast, the index for small firms, capitalized at between 10 million yen and 100 million yen, improved to minus 31.8 from minus 36.5.

The index represents the percentage difference between firms reporting improved confidence and those reporting a deterioration.

A ministry official said as an overall trend, negative widths in the indexes have shrunk since November.

For the next two quarters, improvement is predicted in all segments.

The index for large companies is seen coming to minus 0.3 for the October-December period and positive 4.2 for the January-March period.

The index for midsize firms is predicted to register minus 8.6 for the October-December period and minus 1.3 for the January-March period. For small companies, the index is seen improving to minus 23.1 for the October-December period and minus 17.1 for the January-March period.

The survey covered 8,946 responding firms.

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