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Asia Business: The Week Ahead - 2002-07-22

Unemployment in Hong Kong hits a record high and Disney takes an important step towards building a theme park in Shanghai.

Hong Kong's jobless rate edged up to 7.7 percent in the three months to June, with economists predicting that it could rise further. It is the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1981. Many business sectors, notably manufacturing, real estate and wholesale trading, are laying off workers due in part to the territory's second recession in five years. The job market will soon face more pressure. Up to 20,000 recent graduates will hit the streets this summer in search of employment.

Meanwhile in Japan, the government is watching U.S. stocks closely. Speaking at a news conference, Japanese Economy Minister Heizo Takenaka says the plunging U.S. stock market has a mixed impact in Japan. He notes many Japanese investors are switching their money into yen-denominated assets, such as bonds. And he says, Japanese share prices are declining..

In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down about 20-percent since the start of the year while Japan's Nikkei Average has lost three-percent.

U.S. entertainment giant, Disney, has taken a preliminary step toward building a theme park in Shanghai, one of China's wealthiest cities. It has signed a letter of intent with the city government to construct a theme park by 2008, when Beijing will host the Olympics.

Disney views China as a major growth market in the next decade and is eager to release more movies and sell more merchandise there.

Disney has boosted its Asian presence in recent years. It already has plans for a new park in Hong Kong, and has invested heavily to add a new park to its 20-year-old resort in Tokyo.