Business confidence among big Japanese manufacturers plunged at the fastest pace in more than three decades as the economic crisis deepened, a central bank survey showed.

Confidence tumbled to minus 24 in December from minus three the previous quarter, hitting the lowest level since early 2002, according to the Bank of Japan's Tankan survey of more than 10,000 firms.

Manufacturers painted a grim outlook of business prospects, forecasting a further slump in confidence to minus 36 in March.

The index measures the percentage of firms that think business conditions are good minus those that think they are bad.

The Age