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Profits Soar at Mazda while Mitsubishi Motors Net Loss Grows


Automaker Mazda is on track for its best year in nearly a decade while financial concerns grow at competitor Mitsubishi Motors. Meanwhile, two of Japan's key economic indicators are giving mixed signals.

Mazda has revealed its best profit picture since 1985. The Hiroshima-based automaker, one-third owned by Ford Motor of the United States, says its profits totaled $177 million for the six-month period through September.

But Mazda President Hisakazu Imaki says the carmaker still wants to improve its position in key markets. Mr. Imaki says although the company has made solid progress, he is still not satisfied and vows to accelerate Mazda's momentum.

Mitsubishi Motors, hit by a series of cover-ups and recalls of defective vehicles, is posting an interim net loss of nearly $1.4 billion. That is double the amount of red ink from a year earlier. The company is also downgrading its full-year earnings forecast. Mitsubishi is Japan's only unprofitable automaker.

Honda says it will boost production at one of its two car assembly factories in China to meet growing demand. The Japanese automaker, in a joint venture with China's Dongfeng Motor, says it will add a compact car to its lineup in China and quadruple vehicle output to 120,000 annually by early 2006.

Japan's current account surplus grew nearly 13 percent in the April through September period. The finance ministry says that is the third straight half-year record increase. The data show exports climbing just over 13 percent while imports rose more than 10 percent.

For the month of September, the current account surplus rose 9.3 percent to $16.6 billion. The current account surplus measures the flow of goods, services and investment income, and other financial transfers.

But the country's core machinery orders fell nearly two percent in September from a month earlier. That comes as a surprise to economists who say they had expected an increase of nearly one percent. Machinery orders are regarded as a significant indicator of corporate capital investment.