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Japan's economy watcher sentiment worsens again amid flu outbreak

The Central Government Building No. 4 that houses the Cabinet Office is seen in this file photo in the Kasumigaseki district of Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on April 26, 2017. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Business confidence among workers with jobs sensitive to economic trends fell for the second consecutive month in January as consumers grew wary of eating out amid a flu outbreak and spending by Chinese tourists slowed, government data showed Friday.

The diffusion index of sentiment among "economy watchers" such as taxi drivers and restaurant employees stood at 45.6, down 1.2 points from December and the lowest since July 2016, according to a survey by the Cabinet Office.

A reading below 50 indicates that more respondents reported worsening conditions than improving conditions over the previous three months.

The office maintained its assessment that sentiment "continues to be on a moderate recovery track but appears to be in a temporary lull."

Meanwhile, the index gauging the outlook for economic conditions in the coming months rose 1.5 points to 49.4 following a 2.9-point decline in December.

Survey respondents voiced optimism that Crown Prince Naruhito's accession to the imperial throne on May 1 would serve to loosen consumers' purse strings.

The office polled 2,050 workers from Jan. 25 to 31, of whom 1,860, or 90.7 percent, responded.

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