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Japanese Economic Assessment Lowered

Japan has revised its assessment of the country's economy downward for the first time in 17 months. The finance ministry blames a slowdown in exports and production.

The Bank of Japan has also lowered its assessment of the economy, citing the same factors.

The revisions coincide with a worsening of consumer sentiment in Japan. The government-affiliated Nippon Research Institute says the index measuring consumers' concern about their livelihoods dropped three points from the prior survey in August.

The Institute says Japanese are growing apprehensive about employment prospects and their level of income. The concern is prompted by higher crude oil prices and an economic slowdown in the United States.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange has announced it will de-list Seibu Railway in mid-December. The unprecedented action comes after the company said that for more than four decades, it lied about who its major shareholders were.

The Stock Exchange found that many shares listed as being owned by individuals were actually controlled by a major unlisted company called Kokudo. Kokudo is the holding company for Seibu Railway and Seibu Department Stores, among others, and was headed by one of Japan's richest men, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi.

Seibu Railway shares have dropped as much as 75 percent in value since early October. Financial Services Minister Tatsuya Ito alluded to the fact that small shareholders may seek compensation.

Mr. Ito says shareholders may decide to seek damages in court.

Several big Japanese media companies are also correcting information about their shareholdings.

Nippon Television, part of the Yomiuri conglomerate, says an internal investigation has determined that shares held in the name of the group's chairman effectively belonged to the Yomiuri newspaper.

Earlier, the newspaper said it realized it owned more than 20 percent of the shares of 12 radio or television stations. Ownership in any one broadcasting company is limited by law to 20 percent.

In a similar case, the Tokyo Broadcasting System, allied with the Mainichi media group, has revealed it holds more than the legal limit of stock in a local TV station in Fukushima.

And a Nagoya-based newspaper, Chunichi Shimbun, says an internal review has determined that it holds more than 20 percent of four TV and three radio stations.