Japan’s Automakers Drive Business Optimism to New Heights

Japan's Automakers Drive Business Optimism to New Heights

Tankan Index Shows Promising Signs for Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing Sectors

In a much-needed boost to Japan’s economy, big automakers are spearheading a revival in business optimism, according to the latest Tankan survey. The closely watched index revealed that confidence among major manufacturers is nearing a two-year high, surpassing analyst expectations. This marks the third consecutive quarter of improvement, with carmakers experiencing some of the sharpest gains. While non-manufacturers also saw an increase in sentiment, concerns about the global outlook loom, potentially dampening the positive momentum. The Bank of Japan will closely scrutinize these numbers as it considers its approach to negative interest rates, with Governor Kazuo Ueda emphasizing the need for sustained pay hikes.

Carmakers Thrive Amidst Favorable Economic Factors

The Tankan index, which measures business confidence among large manufacturers, climbed to +12 over the last three months of 2021, surpassing analyst forecasts. This positive trend can be attributed to several favorable factors for the automotive industry. Firstly, carmakers are anticipating a weakening yen, which would enhance their competitiveness in global markets. Additionally, the easing of supply logjams is expected to improve production efficiency and reduce costs. This combination of factors has bolstered optimism within the sector, driving the sharp gains observed in the Tankan survey.

Non-Manufacturing Sector Benefits from Pent-Up Demand and Tourism Resurgence

Notably, the Tankan survey also revealed an uptick in sentiment among non-manufacturing businesses. The index for this sector reached +30, marking the seventh consecutive quarter of improvement and reaching a high not seen since 1991. Economists attribute this growth to pent-up demand following lockdowns and a resurgence in tourism. As travel restrictions ease and consumer confidence returns, businesses in the non-manufacturing sector, such as hospitality and retail, are experiencing a much-needed boost. However, concerns about the global economic outlook persist, casting a shadow over this positive trend.

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Lingering Concerns and the Outlook Ahead

While the Tankan survey brings encouraging news for Japan’s economy, it is essential to consider the potential challenges that lie ahead. Despite the recent improvements, firms of all kinds are anticipating worsening conditions in the coming three months. The uncertain global outlook, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions, could hamper Japan’s economic recovery. These concerns will be closely monitored by policymakers, including the Bank of Japan, as they navigate the path towards economic stability.

Bank of Japan’s Deliberations on Negative Interest Rates

The Tankan survey holds particular significance for the Bank of Japan (BoJ) as it contemplates its exit strategy from negative interest rates. Governor Kazuo Ueda has emphasized the need for sustained pay hikes as a prerequisite for any policy changes. The latest Tankan results indicate that firms still perceive a tight labor market, suggesting the potential for wage increases. With this positive indication, some economists argue that the BoJ should consider taking action on rates. However, the central bank will carefully weigh various factors, including the global economic situation, before making any decisions.


Japan’s automakers have emerged as the driving force behind a revival in business optimism, as indicated by the latest Tankan survey. With confidence among major manufacturers reaching a two-year high and non-manufacturing sectors experiencing sustained growth, there are positive signs for Japan’s economy. However, concerns about the global economic outlook and potential challenges ahead temper this optimism. The Bank of Japan will closely analyze these results as it navigates the path towards economic recovery, taking into account factors such as sustained pay hikes and the need for policy adjustments. As Japan’s big automakers continue to lead the way, the nation’s economic future hinges on how effectively it can address these challenges and leverage the current positive momentum.

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