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Japan Defends Assessment of Economy

The Japanese government defends its economic assessment amid signs the country's recovery might be stalling. The country's current account surplus continues to increase, but not at the rate that had been expected. And Sony wins a round in the battle over the standard for the next generation of DVDs.

Japan's economic and fiscal policy minister says there is no need to change the country's official economic assessment, despite weaker-than-expected growth data.

Minister Heizo Takenaka defended the official economic assessment after revised third quarter data were released this week showing Japan's gross domestic product grew only a fifth of a percent during the period. Mr. Takenaka insists that Japan's economy is only adjusting slightly amid a continuing upward trend.

Under a revised calculation method, Japan's real GDP growth for the entire fiscal year, which ended in March, was lowered from 3.2 percent to 1.9 percent.

Meanwhile, another key economic indicator is causing concern. The Cabinet Office says the so-called diffusion index for October was well below 50 percent for the third consecutive month.

A reading below 50 percent for three straight months is usually considered a sign that the economy has entered a recession.

The Finance Ministry says the country's current account surplus rose for the 16th straight month in October - up nearly seven-and-a-half percent from a year earlier. But that is a smaller gain than economists had expected. Exports rose about 12 percent, while imports increased 12 and a half percent.

Sony has picked up a key ally in its battle over the standard for the next generation of digital video disks. Disney says it has chosen the Blu-ray standard for its next generation of DVD releases. MGM has already announced it will use the same standard, which is backed by Sony and several other electronics companies.

The rival HD DVD format, developed by Toshiba and NEC, is backed by Time Warner. Disney says it has not ruled out using that format as well in the future.