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Japan's Trade Surplus Plunges, Tech Sector in Trouble

In Japanese business headlines, a slump in information technology exports is hurting the country's trade figures and an insurance company folds because of losses relating to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

The latest trade figures from Japan's Finance Ministry underscore the severe difficulties facing the country's information technology sector. The nation's trade surplus in October plunged 33 percent from the same month last year because of a slump in demand for products such as computers and semiconductors. Analysts forecast that Japan's trade surplus will continue to deteriorate as exports drop further.

A Japanese insurance company has collapsed because of obligations related to the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States.

Taisei Fire and Marine Insurance filed for bankruptcy in Tokyo with $600 million on insurance losses from the hijacked planes used in the attacks.

Japanese Financial Services Minister, Hakuo Yanagisawa, says the risk of such attacks was totally unexpected.

He says the plane crashes in the United States are the major factor behind the company's failure. He adds that the impact of the terrorist acts was unforeseen.

Mr. Yanagisawa says there is no similar risk for other domestic insurers.

In earnings news, Japan Telecom, the nation's third biggest telecommunications operator, booked a loss in the first six months of the fiscal year. The company lost more than $40 million compared with a profit of $57 million in the same period last year. The company says severe price competition in Japan's fixed-line phone business is one of its main problems.

But not all Japanese companies are suffering from the global economic slowdown. Nissan Motor, Japan's number two carmaker, says its net profit rose 34 percent in the first six months of the year. Despite a fall in sales, Nissan says continued cost cutting and the weak yen boosted its earnings.