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Japanese Companies Report Quarterly Earnings

Toshiba, Japan's biggest notebook computer company, has unveiled a $306 million loss for the three months ending in June. That is more than double the same period last year and much larger loss than analysts had forecast.

The electronics giant slashed prices on its computers and televisions in the face of heavy price competition from its rivals. But its sales still fell six percent.

In other earnings news, Honda Motor's profits slipped 5.4 percent to $854 million in the first quarter of the business year from one year ago.

Japan's second-largest auto maker attributes the decline to the stronger yen, which hurt sales in overseas markets. (When the yen rises against the dollar and other currencies, consumers overseas must pay more to buy Japanese goods.)

Despite the dip in its first quarter results, Honda has lifted its earnings forecast for the full year to nearly $6 billion. It says it hopes cost cutting and a larger range of vehicles will boost sales.

Japan continues to battle job losses across many sectors of the economy. The unemployment rate for June dropped slightly from the previous month to 5.3 percent. That is close to the record high of 5.5 percent first hit last year.

Labor Minister Chikara Sakaguchi said the labor market still lacks momentum, so the government will continue with measures to help the jobless find work.

Japan has hiked tariffs on beef because of soaring imports, which are cutting into domestic sales. The tariff was raised to 50 percent from 38.5 percent.

The United States, which sold $840 million worth of beef to Japan last year, has complained about the move, along with other nations. But Tokyo says it is an emergency safeguard measure that is permitted by the World Trade Organization.

An outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan two years ago led to a plunge in beef consumption. But imports have rebounded as fears over the disease have gradually faded.