Asia

Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 00:48

Japan Feb Econ Watchers Index Up, Outlook Hits Near 5-Yr High


-- Japan Feb Watchers' Current Index 45.9 Vs Jan 44.1
-- Japan Watchers' Current Index Posts 1st Rise in 2 Months
-- Japan Feb Watchers Forward-Looking Index 50.1 Vs Jan 47.1
-- Japan Govt Keeps View: Economy Improving Gradually

TOKYO (MNI) - The Economy Watchers' Survey index for Japan's current climate marked the first rise in two months while the outlook index hit a near five-year high on eased fears about the yen's rise hurting a recovery, Cabinet Office data released Thursday showed.

Confidence in the current conditions was raised by buoyant sales of automobile sales after the government revived in December subsidies on purchases of low-emission vehicles.

The recent pullback in yen exchange rates from record highs against the dollar hit last year as well as expectations for higher domestic demand from rebuilding earthquake-damaged areas have also brightened up near-term prospects.

After showing ups and downs in recent month, the current conditions index rose to 45.9 last month from 44.1 in January.

The government maintained its assessment, saying that the economy is "picking up gradually" although the drag from the relatively strong yen lingers.

Meanwhile, the forward-looking index, which gauges conditions two to three months ahead, jumped to 50.1 in February from 47.1 in January, posting a second straight monthly rise.

The February level was the highest since 51.9 marked in April 2007.

The watchers' index gauges whether respondents with jobs most sensitive to economic conditions -- taxi and truck drivers, department store sales staff as well as restaurant and shop owners -- believe economic conditions have improved or worsened from three months before.

The household sub-index for current conditions rose to 44.4 in February from 42.8 in January.

The business sub-index for current conditions increased to 44.8 last month from 42.6 in January.

The labor sub-index advanced to 57.7 in February from 55.5 in January.

The Cabinet Office said the survey was conducted between Feb. 25 and Feb. 29.

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