SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) — South Korean manufacturers’ business sentiment rose for the third straight month in September on hopes for economic recovery, central bank data showed Wednesday.

The business sentiment index (BSI) for local manufacturers came to 68 for September, up from 61 for August, according to the data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The outlook index improved for the third straight month after it dipped to the lowest level in over 12 years for June amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

The BSI increased by the largest margin since March 2019 when the reading rose by 11 points. The September data also marks the highest since 69 registered for March.

The index measures manufacturers’ outlook on business conditions in the next month. A reading below 100 means pessimists outnumber optimists.

But the BOK cautioned against reading into the data too much as concerns about the recent flare-up in virus cases were not fully reflected in its survey of companies.

The poll was conducted on 3,255 companies between Aug. 10 and 19.

“It is hard to say that the business sentiment has recovered to the pre-pandemic level,” a BOK official said.

“As for the outlook for September, (downside) risks seem to linger amid the surge in virus cases,” he said.

The country’s new virus cases have been in the triple digits since Aug. 14, when the country reported 103 daily new virus cases. The country added 280 more cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, with 3,175 new cases across the nation identified over the past 12 days.

The index gauging manufacturers’ assessment of current business conditions came in at 66 in August, up from 59 in July and the highest in seven months.

The BSI for conglomerates came to 73 for September, up from 65 for August, while that of smaller companies reached 63, up from 55 for this month.

The business sentiment index among exporters for the next month came to 74, up from 68 for the current month, with that of domestically focused firms rising by eight to 64.

Meanwhile, the BSI of non-manufacturing businesses came to 69 for the next month, up from 63 for this month, the BOK said.