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Japanese Debt Rating Lowered Again - 2002-05-31


A prominent U.S. credit rating agency has downgraded Japan's debt for the second time in six months.

Moody's Investors Service on Friday chastised Japan for its high level of public debt and cut the country's long-term local debt rating by two notches. The credit rating agency says the Japanese government is not doing enough to eliminate its huge debts.

The downgrade means that the world's second largest economy now has the same ratings rank as Latvia and South Africa. Last month, another agency, Standard and Poor's, also cut Japan's credit rating. Officials in Tokyo have complained bitterly about the downgrades, calling them unfair.

Reflecting the difficulties facing the Japanese economy, unemployment data released Friday shows a troubled job market. The jobless rate for April stands at 5.2 percent, unchanged from the previous month and just below the record high set last year.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi says that the number of employees losing jobs has increased. He adds that labor conditions remain severe.

As the World Cup soccer finals get underway in Japan and South Korea, the two countries are cracking down on counterfeiters selling fake World Cup merchandise. Japanese customs officials have confiscated more than 13-thousand items, mostly souvenirs such as T-shirts illegally imprinted with the World Cup logo.

Japanese officials have set up huge X-ray machines at the ports of Kobe, Osaka and Yokohama to inspect shipments and foil counterfeiters. Customs officers are closely inspecting incoming passenger bags and cargo at the major airports.

Sportswear maker Adidas, which holds the only license for the official Japanese World Cup shirt, sells two versions, for $77 and $108. By contrast, the counterfeit shirts sell for $20 to $40 apiece.

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