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Inflation Continues to Rise in Asia, Toyota to Build Hybrid Cars in Australia

Soaring fuel and food costs continue to push up inflation rates around Asia, and Australia's prime minister is touting a new hybrid deal with Toyota that he says will encourage more cost-effective transportation. Naomi Martig in Hong Kong has more on these and other business stories from the region.

India's inflation rate has hit its highest level in more than seven years, driven up by rising prices for food and manufactured goods. Inflation in Asia's third-largest economy rose to 8.75 percent for the week ending May 31, the highest since February 2001.

Analysts expect inflation in India to increase more in the coming weeks, possibly to double digits, following last week's jump in state-set fuel prices. Those increases were put in place to counter massive losses for oil companies, which are struggling with surging global crude costs.

Thailand also may face double-digit inflation this year, with Bank of Thailand's governor saying that increased consumer spending is causing strong inflationary pressure. Thailand's inflation rate jumped to a 10-year high of 7.6 percent in May.

Toyota Motor Corporation plans to manufacture Camry hybrids in Australia. The Japanese automaker says that by 2010 it hopes to begin producing the popular sedans at a plant in southeastern Australia. The news gives a boost to Australia's flagging auto industry, and comes as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government battles spiraling fuel prices.

During a visit to Tokyo last week, Mr. Rudd said the increased popularity of hybrid cars will help Australians for two reasons.

"One is for those Australian motorists who like buying Australian-manufactured cars to give them that option," he said. "Second, in terms of the impact on fuel prices, I think it's really important for people to have that as an option at home as well in terms of dealing with this horrible impact on rising oil prices that affects family motorists."

Hybrid cars have been growing in popularity in recent years, because of rising fuel prices and concerns about car emissions. The cars offer better mileage than regular cars because they combine a gasoline engine and an electric motor.

Toyota plans to produce 10,000 vehicles annually at the Australian plant, and hopes to sell a million or more hybrid cars each year worldwide.

In China, authorities have revoked the export licenses of 700 toy factories for failing to meet safety standards, following a string of high-profile cases that tarnished the image of Chinese goods overseas. China began inspecting more than 3,500 toy makers last August after tens of millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled globally for safety reasons.