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Japanese Economy Grows for 3rd Straight Quarter - 2002-11-15

Japan's economy grew for a third straight quarter and several companies have released strong earnings reports.

Japan's gross domestic product rose 0.7 percent for the third quarter of the year, with output growing at an annualized rate of 3 percent.

Exports drove the slight improvement, but it also was helped by a long-awaited rebound in consumer spending on cars, cell phones and leisure goods. But concerns remain about whether the gradual recovery is losing steam.

Economy Minister Heizo Takenaka tells reporters overseas demand has dropped and domestic demand is in poor shape. He adds the economic recovery is continuing but at a slow pace.

Japan has battled a stubborn economic slump for more than a decade. The government recently unveiled plans to revive the economy and help the ailing financial sector.

In the auto sector, Japan's fourth and fifth largest carmakers reported healthy earnings for the first half of the year. Mitsubishi Motors earned first-half net profit of $55 million. That is a sharp turnaround from a net loss in the same period last year. German car maker DaimlerChrysler owns 37 percent of Mitsubishi.

Mazda Motors posted a net profit for the first six months of $45 million, a four-fold increase from a year ago. The company is one-third owned by U.S. auto giant Ford. Both Mitsubishi and Mazda attribute their gains to cost-cutting and currency fluctuations.

More strong earnings news comes from the telecommunications industry. Japan Telecom returns to the black (to profitability) with profit of nearly $360 million in the first half.

The country's third biggest telecommunications company says its popular camera-equipped mobile phones have boosted sales.