of 100 - the only economy with a top score - compared to its reading of 94 in the second quarter. Australia was the second-most positive with a reading of 79, up from 75.
HIGHLIGHTS - by economy
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asia's top companies were less upbeat about their business outlook in the third quarter of 2013 as concerns about the global economy and rising costs dampened sentiment, the latest Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Survey published on Wednesday showed.
Global uncertainty on when the U.S. Federal Reserve will taper its $85 billion bond buying program and geopolitical tensions in Syria have spooked markets, dealing a blow to business outlook.
The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Index fell to a reading of 66 in September from 71 in the second quarter. A reading above 50 indicates an overall positive outlook.
AUSTRALIA: MODERATELY HIGHER (Index at 79 vs 75 Q2)
Corporate confidence in Australia rose to match highs hit in the first quarter of 2012 as the conservative coalition won a landslide victory in the federal election, bolstering sentiment. Incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared Australia as "open for business".
Of the seven respondents, four were positive while three remained neutral about the business outlook. In the previous quarter there were 14 respondents, with seven neutral and seven having a positive outlook.
The majority of respondents cited global economic uncertainty as their main source of concern and said the number of new orders remained the same.
CHINA: STEADY (Index at 50 vs 50 Q2)
Business sentiment in China remained flat for a third consecutive quarter as all eight companies surveyed said their business outlook remained neutral.
Five respondents cited the world economy as their biggest concern while the remainder flagged rising costs as their primary worry. One respondent reported a rise in employment compared to none last quarter while three said new orders had increased.
INDIA: SLIGHT IMPROVEMENT (Index at 67 vs 63 Q2)
Optimism returned to India, lifting its sentiment index moderately higher after a drop last quarter.
Three respondents said their main concern was a shaky world economy while a rout in the rupee in August also rattled sentiment with