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Japanese PM Calls for New Economic Stimulus Bill

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has instructed leaders in his ruling party to craft an additional economic stimulus package to bolster the country's struggling economy.

Kousuke Hori, the policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, says Mr. Aso wants a measure that goes beyond an $18 billion stimulus package approved Wednesday by the lower house of parliament and expected to pass the upper house next week.

The new stimulus measure may include assistance for small businesses, and tax cuts to encourage business investment.

The world's second-largest economy has managed to weather the global financial crisis that has battered the United States, Europe and parts of Asia in recent weeks. But Japan's benchmark Nikkei index lost more than 9 points Wednesday, its biggest one-day drop in more than two decades.

And government data released Thursday shows machinery orders declined in August by 14.5 percent.

The current measure was crafted by former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda before last month's collapse of U.S.-based investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Mr. Aso had been expected to call for snap parliamentary elections after taking over from Mr. Fukuda late last month. But he says concerns about the nation's struggling economy have persuaded him to delay the vote.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.