The mood among Japanese businesses turned positive for the first time in two years and big firms revised up capital spending plans, a Bank of Japan survey showed, in a sign the export-driven economic recovery is taking hold.
The survey for the three months to June showed Europe's sovereign debt woes and the sharp appreciation in the yen that followed have not yet taken a toll as Japanese companies benefit from solid exports to Asia.
Overall, the tankan survey shows better corporate sentiment, especially among big manufacturers, who have raised their outlook, but it still leaves some elements of concern. The survey does not paint an entirely optimistic view for the economy, said Ayako Sera, a market strategist at Sumitomo Trust & Banking.
The headline index measuring big manufacturers' sentiment improved 15 points to plus 1 in June, the BOJ's closely watched tankan quarterly survey showed on Thursday. That was higher than a median market forecast of minus 4 and was the fifth consecutive quarter of improvement.
The index for September was seen at plus 3, showing firms expect conditions to improve further over the next three months.
In a sign the recovery was broadening, the survey showed big firms expect to increase capital spending by 4.4 percent for the year that started in April.
While that was smaller than the 4.9 percent rise forecast by economists, it was an improvement over the previous tankan that showed companies planned to cut spending by 0.4 percent. In the previous year that ended in March, big firms cut capital spending by 17 percent.
Japan's first-quarter economic growth outpaced that of the United States and Europe on solid exports to Asia. The rebound in exports has led to a bottoming out in capital spending.
But falling shipments and rising inventory in May signaled the benefits of a rebound in exports may be moderating. Analysts say growth will likely slow this year as the impact of subsidies on energy-efficient goods fades.
The sentiment indexes are derived by subtracting the percentage of respondents who say conditions are poor from those who say they are good. Negative readings mean pessimists outnumber optimists.
(Additional reporting by Rie Ishiguro; Editing by Michael Watson)