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China Posts Record Monthly Trade Surplus

China's trade surplus in June reached an all-time high and Japan's current account surplus continues to expand. Claudia Blume at VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong has more on these and other stories in our weekly summary of business news from the region.

Despite consumer worries about the safety of Chinese goods, demand for Chinese exports continues to be strong. China's trade surplus in June reached a record high at almost $27 billion, a rise of 85 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. The June figures pushed China's total trade surplus for the first half of this year to $112.5 billion.

China's export-fueled foreign reserves, which are already the world's largest, reached a new height of $1.33 billion in June.

The Chinese government is trying to rein in exports because of friction with key trading partners such as the United States, who accuse Beijing of keeping its currency artificially low to make exports cheap. China recently cut export tax rebates for almost 3,000 products in an effort to reduce its trade surplus. Analysts say that may have contributed to the rise in exports in June, as factories rushed out orders before the higher taxes begin.

Japan's current account surplus expanded for the fifth straight month in May, as a weaker yen increased the value of overseas investment income and exports. The surplus, which measures the country's foreign trade performance, stood at $17.5 billion. This was a rise of more than 31 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.

Australia's biggest retailer Woolworths said its sales in the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in June, went up almost 10 percent from last year, to about $8.4 billion.

Woolworths Chief Executive Officer Michael Luscombe told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he is confident his company will continue its strong performance.

"What we are saying is that we have had a strong quarter, the finish of a strong year, and we have every confidence that that will flow into another strong year in 2008," he said.

Australia's ANZ bank will buy a 10 percent stake in Vietnam's Saigon Securities for $88 million. Saigon Securities is a leading Vietnamese securities and investment banking company.

And South Korea's central bank raised its key interest rate for the first time in almost a year. The Bank of Korea raised its benchmark lending rate by a quarter percentage point to 4.75 percent.