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Japan Brushes Off Economic Fears About High Oil Prices


Record-high crude oil prices are causing concern in Japan, which is almost wholly dependent on imports for its oil needs.

Crude prices in recent days have jumped to record levels above $56 a barrel.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda says, however, he does not expect the price surge to seriously affect the country's economy. Mr. Hosoda says Japan's economy is set up in a way that it can absorb the crude oil price rise, without causing gross domestic product to fall. He also says he does not expect commodity prices to rise, because the spike in the cost of crude is likely to be a temporary one, caused by speculative moves in the market.

Japan's central bank says the country's economy remains stagnant, but there are signs it may be strengthening. The bank's governor says the economy is still on a plateau, although the bank's monthly report upgrades slightly the economic outlook, describing production as flat, rather than weak, as it was termed in last month's report.

Japan's top automakers have agreed to union demands for bonuses. The agreements involve Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi Motors. Toyota will pay its largest-ever bonus to workers, equal to five months salary. Mitsubishi Motors, which has been damaged by a series of scandals, agreed to a bonus equal to three months' wages.

A Japanese company will begin selling electronic dictionaries in China. Casio Computer says it wants to cash in on the boom there for international travel and foreign language study.

Two bilingual models, one for Japanese and Chinese, the other for English and Chinese, will be manufactured at Casio's factory in Guangdong Province. The devices will go on sale next month in Beijing and Shanghai, with sales in Guangzhou and Shenzhen expected to start in October.