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Japan's Trade Surplus with Asia Hits Record High - 2004-07-23

Japan's trade surplus has soared while the government has raised its economic forecast for the current fiscal year. And Toyota will come to the aid of hundreds of factory workers of competitor Mitsubishi.

Japan's trade surplus for the first half of the year rose more than 42 percent. Exports jumped 19 percent and imports climbed 15 percent.

The Finance Ministry says exports to Asia accounted for half of total shipments from Japan as the trade surplus with the region hit a record high in the January-to-June period. For the month of June alone the total trade surplus soared 37-percent to more than $10 billion amid the demand in Asia for Japanese high-technology goods.

Japan's cabinet has revised the country's economic forecast for the current fiscal year. The new outlook calls for 3.5 percent year-on-year economic expansion. That is up from a growth prediction of less than two percent made in January. The government says the revision reflects higher-than-expected personal consumption, which it credits to more people finding jobs.

Mitsubishi Motors, rocked by recall scandals and plummeting sales, is getting a helping hand from competitor Toyota. Some Mitsubishi employees, facing the loss of their jobs, are going to be rescued by Japan's top automaker.

Toyota President Fujio Cho tells reporters he has received a request from Mitsubishi to hire some of its factory workers and suppliers from a plant it is closing.

Mitsubishi says at least 400 workers from the plant will go to Toyota.

Toyota also has raised its global vehicle sales target for 2004. The automaker says it expects to produce more than 7.5 million vehicles this year, an increase of nearly 300,000 vehicles from its previous forecast. Toyota says in the years ahead it expects production numbers to be even higher because of sales in emerging markets, such as China and India.

An engineer at Hitachi High-Technologies has created what is believed to be the world's smallest diamond ring. The company says the tungsten wire ring, measuring a mere .02 millimeters in diameter, was created with gallion ion beams normally used to make and inspect semi-conductor chips.

The company admits the ring is unlikely to be in demand among brides to be, as they would need a microscope to see the diamond, which is only one five-billionth of a carat in size.