Rising consumer prices mean Japan's central bank is almost certain to begin tightening its monetary policy in April, a survey of analysts has found.
With more money in their pockets, consumers are feeling happier
More than 90% of the 88 market watchers polled by Reuters said the Bank of Japan (BoJ) would act by 28 April.
They expect the BoJ to cut the amount of money pumped into the banking system and then start raising interest rates, currently at 0%, later in the year.
The BoJ has used its monetary policy to help lift growth in Japan's economy.
Falling prices, known as deflation, have hit corporate profits and salaries and plunged the Japanese economy into a six year slump.
The Bank of Japan has followed its "quantitative easing" policy for the past five years - keeping the cost of borrowing low by holding interest rates at zero and making it easier for banks to lend money by pumping extra cash into the banking system.
It has said it would maintain this policy until year-on-year consumer prices stabilise at zero or higher.
Japan's nationwide consumer price index rose 0.1% year-on-year in November and December, the first consecutive rise for almost eight years. January's figures are due out later this week and are expected to show a rise of 0.4%.
Most of the analysts and traders surveyed by Reuters thought the Bank of Japan would begin changing its policy at its 28 April policy meeting.
Further evidence of an impending change came last Sunday when Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano said that Japan had beaten deflation.
However, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi contradicted him on Monday by refusing to accept that deflation was over.