SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) — Business sentiment in South Korea improved for November as domestic consumption expands on eased social distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic, a local think tank said Tuesday.

The business survey index (BSI) of the country’s top 600 companies by sales came to 99.5 for November, up from the 84.6 for October, the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI) said in a statement.

“Eased social distancing rules have helped improve companies’ profitability. But it’s too early to say an economic recovery has occurred due to uncertainties involving COVID-19 and the U.S. presidential election next month,” a KERI official said.

South Korea relaxed its social distancing scheme to the lowest Level 1 in its three-tier system from Oct. 12, after applying Level 2 measures across the country since late August.

Under Level 1 measures, citizens are permitted to normalize most of their daily activities, with infection prevention steps in place. Even risk-prone facilities, including clubs and bars, are allowed to operate after a monthslong suspension as long as they keep entry logs and follow preventive measures.

A reading below 100 means pessimists outnumber optimists, while a figure above the benchmark means the opposite.

The BSI has stayed below 100 for 30 consecutive months after reaching 100.3 in May 2018, said KERI, a research institute under the Federation of Korean Industries, South Korea’s biggest business lobby.

KERI’s analysis for this month gave an index of 98.7, up from 84 a month earlier despite the prolonged pandemic, it said.

KERI said 377 out of the 600 companies responded to the survey, which was conducted from Oct. 14-21.