UPDATE 1-Japan big manufacturers' mood turns positive-BOJ tankan

Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:59pm EDT

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By Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO, July 1 (Reuters) - Japanese manufacturers' sentiment turned positive in the three months to June for the first time in nearly two years, a closely-watched central bank survey showed, a sign the recent market turbulence has yet to hurt the feel-good mood created by the government's reflationary policies.

The headline index for big manufacturers' sentiment improved 12 points from three months ago to plus 4, slightly better than a median market forecast of plus 3, the Bank of Japan's quarterly "tankan" survey showed on Monday.

That was the second straight quarter of improvement and the first positive reading - which means optimists outnumbered pessimists - since the survey of September 2011, a vindication of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Abenomics" policy of aggressive monetary stimulus and fiscal spending.

Service-sector sentiment also brightened as consumers spent more, with the index for big non-manufacturing companies rising 6 points to plus 12, the tankan showed. That compared with a median market forecast of plus 11.

The outcome bodes well for the central bank, keen to end grinding deflation that has haunted Japan for 15 years and achieve its 2 percent inflation target in roughly two years through aggressive monetary stimulus.

Big manufacturers expect business conditions to improve further three months ahead, suggesting they see the negative effect of recent market turbulence on the economy as limited - at least for now.

The survey was compiled amid acute volatility that drove up bond yields and wiped out the gains in Tokyo shares made on investors' big hopes for Abe's stimulus plans.

But big firms plan to increase capital expenditure by 5.5 percent in the current business year from April, more than a median market forecast of a 2.9 percent rise, a sign the positive mood may be prompting them to expand business operations.

Financial markets have rallied strongly since Abe first highlighted his brand of aggressive policymaking late last year. They got a further boost in April, when the BOJ unleashed an intense burst of stimulus by pledging to double the supply of money in two years.

But the positive market sentiment turned around in late May when the BOJ's huge asset purchases disrupted the bond market and drove up yields which, coupled with expectations of the U.S. Federal Reserve's tapering of monetary stimulus, hit global stocks and triggered a rebound in the safe-haven yen.

Still, the tankan, a key touchstone for BOJ policymakers, reinforced the view that Japan's economy remains on track for a steady recovery backed by a pickup in exports and private consumption.

Many analysts expect the BOJ to keep monetary policy steady at its next policy-setting meeting next week.

The tankan's sentiment indexes are derived by subtracting the percentage of respondents who say conditions are poor from those who say they are good.

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