Rising stock prices and brighter economic indicators at home and abroad boosted business confidence at large Japanese companies in the July-September period, according to a Finance Ministry survey released Thursday.

The business sentiment index for companies capitalized at 1 billion yen or more improved to minus 6.3 in the reporting quarter from minus 9.5 in the April-June period.

The index is compiled by subtracting the percentage of firms that report deteriorating business confidence from those that report an improvement.

Although the figure is an improvement, it stayed in negative territory for the 10th consecutive quarter.

“Respondents cited domestic economic factors as reasons for their decision,” said one ministry official. “Although they said that the weather worked against the economy, domestic economic factors outweighed even that.”

This summer has been the coolest and rainiest in 10 years, keeping people at home and away from bars, restaurants, stores and resorts.

The May survey was carried out at a time when corporate sentiment was depressed by falls in Tokyo stocks to 20-year lows and by worries over the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The August survey shows that the index is projected to move into positive territory — to 2.6 — in the October-December quarter and to 5 in the January-March period.

The index for manufacturers improved to minus 2.3 from minus 5.4 in the April-June period, while the index for nonmanufacturers improved to minus 9.2 from minus 13.4.

The index for companies capitalized between 100 million yen and 1 billion yen for the July-September period improved to minus 13.4, having stood at minus 18.3 in the previous quarter.

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