Business sentiment at Japanese large firms in the first quarter of 2014 hit a record of 12.7 from the reading of 8.3 for the last three months of last year, the highest level since comparable data became available in 2004, said the Japanese Finance Ministry on Wednesday in a survey. The survey, which covers firms capitalized at and above 1 billion yen (about 9.31 million U.S. dollars), however, said that the firms also concerned over the planned sales tax hike that would tumble consumption. During the first quarter, business sentiment at manufacturers jumped to 12.5 from 9.7 at the previous quarter on the back of a rush in demand prior to the sales tax hike, while that at non- manufacturers gained to 12.8 from 7.5, the survey showed. However, the companies' sentiment was at minus 9.8 for the April-June period, according to the survey, as they are wary of immediate impact of the planned sales tax hike from current 5 percent to 8 percent in April. The index is forecast at 8.3 in the third quarter, indicating firms believe an economic downturn in the wake of the tax increase would be only temporary, Japan's Kyodo News quoted a ministry official as saying. The survey, which are based on valid answers provided by around 13,000 companies as of Feb. 15, are calculated by subtracting the percentage of firms reporting deteriorating business conditions from those observing improvements.