Japan business sentiment mixed in fragile recovery: Reuters Tankan

September 14, 2016 7:02 PM EDT

Women assemble an Aquos television at Sharp Corp's Tochigi plant in Yaita, north of Tokyo, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Reiji Murai/File Photo

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By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Izumi Nakagawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese manufacturers' confidence bounced from a three-year low, while sentiment in the services sector hit its lowest since 2013 when the central bank began bold monetary stimulus, a Reuters poll showed, underscoring a fragile economic recovery.

The monthly Reuters Tankan, which tracks the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) quarterly tankan survey, also found that confidence at manufacturers and service-sector firms is expected to improve in December, easing pessimism about the economy's outlook.

The mixed results of the poll of 532 large- and mid-sized firms - carried out between Aug. 30 and Sept. 12 and in which 269 responded - follows recent data showing weak exports and output, and upbeat capital spending, as the BOJ prepares to hold a monetary policy meeting next week.

The sentiment index for manufacturers rose to 5 from 1 in August, rising for the first time in three months, as confidence at exporters of cars and electronics rebounded from the prior month's lows.

Compared with three months ago, the index was up two points, indicating a slight improvement in the headline big manufacturers' index in the BOJ tankan due Oct. 3.

In the survey, exporters complained about sluggish external demand and a profit squeeze caused by the yen's gains. Many companies also voiced concerns about weak domestic demand.

"The economy remains uneven. Automobiles are performing well but electronics are declining while construction has been poor," a manager at a steelmaker said in the survey, which companies answer anonymously.

A machinery maker said the yen was higher than its assumed rate of 110 yen to the dollar and was concerned about consumer spending in the United States ahead of the presidential election in November, and in Britain following the Brexit vote.

"In Japan, prices of goods have not stopped falling due to a delay in escaping from the deflationary mindset," a manager at the machinery maker wrote in the survey.

The service-sector index fell to 14 from 18 in August, as bad weather pushed retailers' sentiment to an 18-month low of minus 9 from 13 in August, a worrying sign of weakness in private consumption that constitutes about 60 percent of the economy.

It was seen bouncing to 22 in December.

Compared with three months ago, the service-sector index was down three points, suggesting a slight deterioration in the big non-manufacturers' sentiment in the BOJ tankan.

With growth remaining weak and inflation slipping far away from the BOJ's 2 percent target, many analysts expect the central bank to ease again at its Sept. 20-21 meeting, when it will review the effects of its monetary stimulus.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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