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Sony Cuts Global Workforce to Improve Earnings; Toyota Becomes 2nd Largest Automaker

Technology giant Sony saw its profit slide but carmaker Toyota has overtaken a U.S. rival to become the world's number two carmaker.

Earnings at Sony, Japan's consumer electronics and entertainment giant, plunged in the third quarter. Sony says its profit from October through December fell 26 percent to $880 million from the same period a year earlier.

Sales rose to a record quarterly high, helped by digital audio-video products, but they were offset by heavy restructuring costs.

Sony is in the midst of a major restructuring program, which involves cutting 20,000 jobs or about 13 percent of its global workforce.

Sony's chief financial officer, Takao Yuhara, says the company will spare no effort to improve earnings. Mr. Yuhara says the company's performance was better than expected and pledges to expand sales.

In economic news, Japan's trade surplus surged 41 percent in December from a year earlier to 10 and a $500 million, the sixth straight monthly rise.

The finance ministry says rising exports such as electronics and semiconductor components, especially to China and other Asian countries, provided a boost. In contrast, the surplus to the United States fell for the 12th month in a row.

Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters that the Japanese economy relies too much on exports and says domestic demand must increase. He says the economy is being led by overseas economies and the government needs to bolster local demand through higher personal spending.

One company with a vital impact on the Japanese trade surplus is Toyota, the country's top automaker. It has overtaken American rival Ford to become the world's second largest automaker, behind General Motors of the U.S. in the number one spot. Toyota sold almost seven million vehicles worldwide last year, slightly more than Ford.

The change in ranking is due to the rising popularity of Japanese cars in the United States. Toyota posted record profits last year and now controls about 11 percent of the world market.