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Japan: Yen is Too Strong - 2002-07-15

Japan's finance minister says the yen is too strong, while new figures show Singapore's economy may be on the rebound.

Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa says the dollar has fallen too far against the Japanese currency. He said Sunday that the world's industrial powers are likely to intervene jointly to keep the greenback from slipping below 100 yen. The dollar is hovering around 116 yen, down 14 percent from its January high.

Mr. Shiokawa said that, while the market determines exchange rates, it is not good if the yen fluctuates dramatically. He added that Japanese officials will respond appropriately if that happens.

Analysts say the finance minister could be hinting Japan will intervene again in the markets. The Ministry of Finance, via the Bank of Japan, has sold yen at least seven times since late May. Traders estimate that Tokyo has spent more than $30 billion recently to try capping the yen's gains.

Tokyo worries the yen's rise could disrupt Japan's fragile economic recovery, which is dependent on strong exports. Mr. Shiokawa has targeted a range of 125-to-135 yen to the dollar as best for Japan's economy.

South Korea's largest mobile phone company reports that its profit nearly doubled in the first half of the year. SK Telecom says it earned $764 million in that period, as customers increased use of Internet and data services.

More than half of all cellular phone users in South Korea subscribe to SK Telecom, which has about $16.5 customers.

The healthy results stand in strong contrast to some mobile phone companies around the world. Many are struggling with saturated markets, and are finding little customer interest in new so-called third-generation services, which cost hundreds-of-millions of dollars to develop.

In Singapore, the economy grew by a better than expected three-point-two percent in the second quarter from the same period last year.

The government attributes the improvement to a strong surge of activity in the chemical industry. Singapore has been suffering through a deep recession, and the government warns that traditional sources of growth, such as the electronics industry, remain subdued.