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Japanese Economy Has Better Than Expected Showing - 2002-09-13

Japan's economy pulls off a better than expected showing and a major electronics company unveils an additional restructuring plan.

In the second quarter of the year, Japan's economy expanded more than previously thought. According to revised government data, gross domestic product grew by 0.6 percent in the three months to June from the previous quarter. That compares with an earlier estimate of 0.5 percent.

Increased capital spending by Japanese companies helped, as did larger production of goods for overseas markets. However, some economists warn that weakening foreign orders could limit future growth.

Japan's agriculture ministry has filed criminal complaints against three former officials of meat packer Nippon Food. They are suspected of abusing a government beef buyback program by re-labeling imported beef as domestic.

Farm Minister Tsutomu Takebe tells reporters that he thinks police will investigate the suspects in detail, beyond the reach of his ministry.

Japan introduced the meat buyback scheme after the country's first case of mad cow disease was discovered last year. The news has kept many consumers from eating beef because the illness has been linked to a fatal human brain disorder.

Further restructuring will take place at electronics giant Fujitsu. It will slash 3,000 jobs or nearly two percent of its workforce through a voluntary early-retirement program.

The latest job-cutting decision follows a sharp sales decline due to weaker demand from the United States. Fujitsu eliminated 22,000 employees in the last fiscal year.

The number of Japanese families receiving welfare payments has touched a record high. The government says more than 800,000 households are now on welfare, an increase of 7.2 percent from last year.

A decade of economic woes is behind the increase, with falling incomes, rising unemployment and shrinking asset values all factors.