TOKYO: Business sentiment in Japan has reached a record low, with an index score of the economic perceptions of the country's biggest companies falling to –51.3 from –35.7 in the previous quarter.

Japan is home to the world's third-largest advertising market, but is predicted to see its economic growth rate slow dramatically this year, while its ad market will also contract by around 3% during 2009.

Among the major manufacturers who took part in the recent survey, perceptions of the country's economic prospects declined to an index score of –66.0 from –44.5 in the last survey.

The country's automakers' were particularly pessimistic, with their index score sliding to –92.1 from –83.6 in the same period, while non-manufacturers' totals dropped to –42.6 from –30.5.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, which compiled the survey alongside the Cabinet Office, warned that the "Japanese economy is worsening rapidly and is in a severe situation."

Dentsu, the Japanese marketing services group, has also announced that senior executives are to return between 5% and 15% of their monthly salaries between April and September this year are a result of slowing adspend levels.

Its chairman, president and ceo will return 15% of their monthly wage, a figure falling to 10% for those at director, senior executive vice president and executive president level, and 5% for senior vice presidents and executive officers.

The company's directors began returning between 5% and 10% of their salaries in October 2008, a rate that will now increase as a result of the "rapid economic decline" and "even more conservative stance on advertising spend among advertisers."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff