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Japan's March consumer confidence down to lowest in 2.5 yrs


Japan's consumer confidence deteriorated in March to the lowest level since August 2011, the government said Thursday, indicating mounting concern that the consumption tax hike in April will drag down the nation's economy.

The seasonally adjusted index of sentiment among households made up of two or more people fell 1.0 point from the previous month to 37.5, down for the fourth straight month, the Cabinet Office said. Readings below 50 indicate pessimists outnumber optimists.

The government said the consumer sentiment shows "weak development," downgrading its assessment from February's statement that it is "on a weak note."

Analysts say the spending tax hike to 8 percent from 5 percent could dampen consumer spending and corporate investment, hurting the nation's nascent economic recovery.

In the survey, consumers are asked about the outlook for the coming six months.

In March, all of the index's four components fell.

Consumers' near-term readiness to buy new durable goods slid 2.0 points to 30.8, and livelihoods dropped 1.0 point to 35.0. Their assessment of employment conditions declined 0.9 point to 45.9 and that of income growth went down 0.1 point to 38.2.

The survey, meanwhile, showed that 89.7 percent of households expect consumer prices to rise in the year ahead, up 0.4 point from February and the highest level since comparable data became available in April 2004.

A Cabinet Office official suggested that the expectations about price gain are attributable to a rise in prices of some commodities, electricity and gas from April.

The survey conducted on March 15 covered 8,400 households with valid responses coming from 5,674 of them.