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Japan’s economy watcher sentiment in November improves to 8-year high

People walk on a street with restaurants and bars in Tokyo’s Shimbashi district on Friday. | KYODO

TOKYO — Japan’s business sentiment in November among workers in jobs sensitive to economic trends rose to the highest level in eight years, as the lift of COVID-19 emergency state boosted confidence among restaurants to a record high, government data showed Wednesday.

The diffusion index of confidence in current conditions grew 0.8 points from October to 56.3, compared with three previous months among “economy watchers,” such as taxi drivers and eatery staff, according to the Cabinet Office.

The reading increased 13.4 points from October, the biggest monthly improvement since June last year, as the state of emergency was completely lifted on Oct. 1. Under the COVID-19 state of emergency, people were requested to stay at home and restaurants to close early.

Sentiment among eateries improved for the third consecutive month, and the diffusion index logged 68.2, up 3.1 points and marking the highest level since 2002.

Confidence among retailers dropped 0.4 points to 53.7, the first decline in three months, as some people tended to eat at restaurants rather than shop in supermarkets and cook at home, a Cabinet Office official said, while the figure was still above the boom-or-bust line.

A reading above 50 indicates that more respondents think conditions are improving rather than worsening. The office surveyed 2,050 workers from Nov. 25 to 30, of whom 1,828, or 89.2 percent, responded.

The office upgraded its assessment of the economy for the third straight month, saying, “The economy is picking up though concerns remain over the coronavirus pandemic.”

In the previous month, the office said the economy was recovering “gradually.”

Looking ahead, the diffusion index measuring business sentiment in the next months decreased 4.1 points to 53.4 from the previous month, down for the first time in three months.

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