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Japanese Companies Boost Spending

Japanese companies increased their capital spending while sales of imported cars decreased in Japan. That and more in our weekly look at business news in Japan.

Companies in Japan spent more on capital improvements in the July to September quarter. The Finance Ministry says capital spending increased by almost 10 percent. Manufacturers led the way, with the sector reporting an 18.7 percent increase in spending on plants and equipment over the previous year's figure.

Graham Davis, director of the Economist Corporation in Tokyo, says this is a good sign for the Japanese economy.

"This is really the first time they [companies] have been looking to grow their businesses, and what happened was they didn't replace a lot of old plant machinery during the recession," said Graham Davis. "They simply couldn't afford to, and, but now they see profits rising and they are more confident about the future."

While capital spending was gaining, sales of imported cars fell in November - down 3.1 percent from a year ago.

Volkswagen was the top-selling imported car in Japan for the second straight month in a row. It sold more than 4,600 cars, taking a nearly 22 percent share of the market. BMW was the second top-selling imported car.

The coming New Year holiday is one of the biggest travel seasons for Japan, but fewer Japanese tourists plan to visit China and Indonesia on their vacations.

JTB Corporation, Japan's biggest travel agency, blamed the drop on the spreading bird flu outbreak and the anti-Japan demonstrations earlier this year in China. Tourists also are worried about going to Indonesia after the resort island of Bali was hit by suicide bombers earlier this year.

However, more Japanese plan to travel overseas during these holidays than last year - about 624,000 more people. The most popular destinations are the United States and Europe.

All Nippon Airways placed fourth on Zagat's list of this year's global carriers. ANA had placed 10th in Zagat's previous survey in 2001. Japan Airlines dropped to seventh from its earlier third place ranking. Singapore Airlines was listed as the number one airline, followed by Emirates Air of the United Arab Emirates and then Cathay Pacific Airways of Hong Kong.

Zagat is the world's most popular survey of passenger preferences. The survey covered 55 international carriers.