Japan's major manufacturers remain cautious about the economy's trajectory, with business sentiment flat for the quarter as concerns about the pandemic linger, a key survey showed Monday.
Among major non-manufacturers however, there was an improvement in confidence about the world's third largest economy, offering glimmers of hope.
Among large non-manufacturers meanwhile, confidence improved to plus nine from plus two in the previous quarter, the sixth consecutive improvement.
The short-term business sentiment survey reports the difference between the percentage of firms that are upbeat and those that see conditions as unfavourable.
A positive figure means more companies see business conditions as favourable than those that consider them unfavourable. It is considered to be the broadest indicator of how Japan Inc. is faring.
The latest reading comes with concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
For medium-sized manufacturing firms, confidence was unchanged at plus six, while sentiment for small companies improved to minus one from minus three.
Emergency virus measures that largely affected bars and restaurants as well as limiting large events were in place in parts of the country for much of the year, but were lifted finally in October.
To address concerns over the Omicron variant, Japan earlier this month abruptly asked airlines to stop taking all new incoming flight reservations for a month, but later softened the blanket ban to make it easier for citizens to return.
Its vaccination programme, which began later than in many developed countries and started slowly, has picked up speed however, with around 78 percent of the population now fully inoculated.
And the government this month started administering the third dose of vaccine, initially targeting health workers.
The government has also pledged large stimulus measures in a bid to support economic recovery and those hit by the pandemic downturn.