• The Associated Press

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Companies’ confidence has improved for the fourth straight quarter, the Bank of Japan’s quarterly “tankan” survey of business sentiment showed Thursday.

The main index for large manufacturers stood at minus 14, an improvement from minus 25 three months ago and an indication that corporate Japan’s faith in the recovering global economy is growing.

The figure represents the percentage of firms saying business conditions are good minus those saying conditions are unfavorable. The higher the number, the better the mood.

The reading narrowly missed Kyodo’s average market forecast of minus 13.

The tankan helps the central bank guide monetary policy, and the latest results confirm its relatively upbeat assessment of the economy. BOJ Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa reiterated last month that stimulus measures at home and abroad are working, bolstering exports, production and consumer consumption.

Sentiment among big nonmanufacturers improved to minus 14 from minus 21 in December. Medium-size manufacturers’ confidence improved to minus 19 from minus 28, and the small manufacturers’ index rose to minus 30 from minus 41.

The tankan also found that big companies plan to reduce capital investments by 0.4 percent in the new business year, which started Thursday.

Respondents said they still had too much capacity and too many workers, though the excesses were smaller than three months ago. Firms are assuming the dollar will average ¥91 this business year.

The BOJ surveyed 11,528 firms between Feb. 23 and Wednesday, of which almost 99 percent responded.

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