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The consumer confidence index hit a new high in March as optimists outnumbered pessimists for the first time, the Bank of Japan said in its quarterly survey report Thursday.

The index rose from minus 2.2 in December 2005 to 6.1 in March, the highest and first positive reading since the central bank launched the quarterly survey in March 1996.

The index is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who believe economic conditions have worsened over the past year from the percentage of those who believe conditions have improved.

The percentage of people expecting better economic conditions exceeded the percentage of those otherwise.