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Japan's Leader Reshuffles Cabinet;  Chief Executive of National Australia Bank Resigns

Japan's embattled prime minister has replaced his cabinet, in an effort to improve the economy and his popularity, and the National Australia Bank has announced it is replacing its chief executive, following an alarming credit market loss. From Hong Kong, Naomi Martig has more on these and other business stories from the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has announced a new cabinet, in a last-ditch effort to increase his popularity and offer the country a comprehensive plan to ease fears of a recession.

The new cabinet, announced on Friday in Tokyo, includes newly-appointed Finance Minister Bunmei Ibuki and Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai. Economic plans that are expected to take shape include additional financial packages to help fishermen, amid soaring fuel costs, supporting small businesses and taking overall measures to ease the burden for local economies.

Japanese officials say they are beginning deliberations immediately and expect to announce measures as early as September.

The Japanese leader's popularity has plummeted since he took over last September, in part because of rising global oil and food prices.

The National Australia Bank has replaced its chief executive following the announcement of $830 million in losses related to the American mortgage market crisis.

In a statement released Friday, the NAB - Australia's second largest bank - said that Chief Executive John Stewart will be replaced by Cameron Clyne by January 1.

During a conference call to bank analysts late last week, Stewart said that his resignation is not entirely connected to the massive loss announcement earlier in the week.

"Course the timing is unfortunate, but let me tell you that it was me who said to the board that we should go today, there was no doubt about that," he said. "To actually hold off for two to three months to spare my feelings and then find out we don't have the right transition was not the right thing to do.

NAB's announcement, late last month, that $830 million had been set aside for debt losses sparked the biggest one-day drop in its shares since 1987.

Malaysia's state-owned automaker, Proton, has announced plans to develop a new, fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle. Malaysian officials say the car is being designed in an effort to ease the burden of rising fuel costs and to address environmental concerns.

The company says that it plans to launch the finished version next year.

Hybrid vehicles deliver power by switching between a gasoline engine and an electric motor and can save up to 30 percent on fuel costs.