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Japan's Consumer Confidence Up, and Other Business News


Consumer Confidence

Japan's consumer confidence is at its highest point in 15 years. Consumer confidence increased to 48.2 points in December, covering a three-month period, and was the highest since 1991. It has increased by 3.4 points since September.

Japanese cabinet officials, who conducted the survey, say the gain is due to higher salaries, better job opportunities and the continuing recovery of Japanese companies.

But economists warn it is still below 50 percent, which means there still are more pessimists than optimists.

Exports

Japan's exports increased by 14.2 percent in November from the previous year. Auto exports rose by nearly 11 percent while computer chip exports increased by more than 17 and a half percent from a year ago.

As a result of increased exports, Japan's surplus in its current account - a key measure of trade in goods and services - rose 15 percent.

Japan's Finance Ministry said the increase was because of strong exports to the United States and China.

Aerospace Financing

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to search for private investors to finance its projects, including the development of spacesuits and observation satellites. The agency needs outside money to expand its space exploration programs after years of seeing the government cut its budget.

Jun Ishizuka, director of the space agency, explains the importance of the private sector. "We are facing a critical time, so we are considering getting companies to advertise on the body of the rocket," said Ishizuka. "If we get private sectors to join our space programs then there will be a lot of room for growth."

The agency wants to launch its first independent manned space flights and hopes to have a base on the moon by 2025.

Joint Venture

Japan's Ajinomoto Company will set up a joint venture in China with Xiamen Ideal Group Company. Starting in March, the venture will produce about 500 tons of dried vegetables for Ajinomoto soup products.

Ajinomoto will use Xiamen Ideal's farms to produce vegetables such as spinach and cabbage.

The new company will be called Xiamen Ajiraku Ideal Foods Company. Ajinomoto projects it will earn almost $9 million from sales in 2010.

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