Times Staff and Wire Reports

Corporate Confidence Improves: Despite January's devastating earthquake in Kobe, business sentiment has improved over the last three months, according to a quarterly survey released by Japan's central bank. The Bank of Japan's Tankan index of business confidence among leading Japanese manufacturers improved to negative 21 from negative 29 three months earlier--the fourth straight quarterly improvement. The index, based on the central bank's survey of almost 10,000 companies, is calculated by subtracting the percentage of firms saying economic conditions are worsening from the percentage who see an improving business climate.

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