TOKYO: Consumer confidence is rising in Japan, with shoppers also now more willing to make big-ticket purchases despite the challenges facing the nation's economy, a study has found.

The Cabinet Office's regular barometer of popular sentiment stood at 39.6 points for January 2012, measured against 38.1 points in December 2011. This is its highest level since March 2011.

"Consumer confidence is showing signs of a pickup," the analysis stated, a trend which was reflected across a broad range of the metrics encompassed by the research.

As an example, when asked to rate their "overall livelihood", totals came in at 40.6 points, versus the 39.4 points registered in December. This was the strongest score for 11 months.

In terms of income expectations, the sample provided a rating of 39.3 points, an improvement of 1.3 points month on month.

Perceptions regarding the employment market were less favourable overall, at 36.6 points, indicative of the various difficulties currently impacting the Japanese economy and many of its leading companies.

However, while sentiment was relatively depressed in this area compared with the other categories assessed, returns were up from the low of 28.1 points recorded in April 2011.

The "willingness to buy" index reached 41.7 points, once again the best score for almost a year, and a leap of 1.1 points on December 2011.

Figures here have witnessed a longer-term decline after attaining a recent high of 47.2 points in June 2010, an amount which seems unlikely to be surpassed in the near future.

Only 8% of the panel believed prices were likely to fall in the coming 12 months, 22% anticipated little change, and 61.1% agreed costs would rise.

This constituted an increase from 59.3% in December 2011, but also remained below the levels recorded in every month following the 67.5% peak logged during March 2011.

Data sourced from MNI/Reuters; additional content by Warc staff