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Tokyo Land Prices on the Rise After 13-Year Slump


Japan's capital is bucking the trend for residential land prices in the country. While average property prices have fallen for 13 straight years, Tokyo land is becoming more valuable - up four-tenths of a percent over the past year.

The National Tax Administration, in setting the annual reference prices for inheritance and gift taxes, says the value of land outside Tokyo's center is also increasing. It attributes the rise to redevelopment projects.

While some analysts say the gains for Tokyo land prices could herald an end to Japan's decade-long deflationary trend, the country's finance minister says that assessment is not on solid ground. Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters that, while land prices seem to be nearing the end of their decline, it is premature to predict an end to deflation in Japan.

Japan and Thailand have reached a tentative free trade agreement. But observers say the non-binding pact is shaky, and Thailand is hinting that talks could be re-opened.

Japanese Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa says a breakthrough came after Bangkok promised to slightly lower tariffs on imported Japanese luxury vehicles. Mr. Nakagawa acknowledges that negotiators were under pressure to finalize even a tentative accord, but he says he is satisfied with what has been achieved.

Thai negotiators were reportedly hesitant to bow to Japanese pressure to sign an agreement, arguing that access to the Japanese market for their agricultural products has not been adequately resolved.

If the deal is made official, Thailand will be the fifth country to have a free trade agreement with Japan, following Singapore, Mexico, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Seven of 11 Japanese automakers, including Nissan and Honda, are reporting increased group operating profits for the April-June quarter. Automakers credit a weaker-than-expected yen and solid sales, both in Japan and in the United State, for the improved profits.

Japan's top vehicle maker, Toyota, however, says that, while sales increased 10 percent, its profits fell. Number Two Nissan says its domestic sales rose 19 percent on the year, and its pre-tax profit jumped 17 percent on the year for the second quarter.

Seven major Japanese drug manufacturers are reporting double-digit group pretax profit increases in the same quarter.

Astellas Pharma says its consolidated pretax profit rose 13 percent on the year, crediting European sales of a urinary drug and demand for its immuno-suppressants.

Takeda Pharmaceutical reports a 10 percent jump in its pretax profit, amid a recovery in sales for an ulcer drug in the United States. And Eisai says its pretax profit rose 20 percent, crediting strong demand for its Alzheimer's medication.