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[TOKYO] Confidence among Japan's biggest manufacturers has risen for the third straight quarter to the best level in more than three years, a key central bank survey showed Monday as exports continue to grow.
The Bank of Japan's Tankan report - a quarterly survey of more than 10,000 companies - showed a reading of 17 among major manufacturers, the highest since the first quarter of 2014.
The key index, which rose from 12 in the previous survey, also beat market expectations of a result around 15.
The better-than-expected Tankan is good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose party suffered a crushing defeat in the Tokyo municipal assembly election on Sunday in a vote seen as a barometer of current public sentiment toward his government.
Mr Abe swept to power in late 2012 on pledge to cement a lasting recovery in the world's third-largest economy with a growth plan eponymously dubbed Abenomics.
The scheme - a mix of aggressive monetary easing and huge government spending along with reforms to the economy - stoked a stock market rally as it weakened the yen and fattened corporate profits, but the effect on the wider economy has been less dramatic.
But recently the country's prospects have been improving on the back of strong exports, with investments linked to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics also giving the economy a shot in the arm.
The Tankan, closely watched for being the broadest indicator of how Japan Inc is faring, marks the difference between the percentage of firms that are upbeat and those that see conditions as unfavourable.
The latest report comes after a batch of government data on Friday showed inflation ticked up in May but weak spending underlined the challenges still facing Tokyo's battle to ramp up prices and slay years of on-off deflation.
The index for non-manufacturers rose to 23 from 20 in the previous Tankan, reaching the highest level since the final quarter of 2015.