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Saturday December 1, 2012

Japan approves US$10.7bil stimulus package

TOKYO: Tokyo has approved US$10.7bil in fresh spending to help boost Japan's limp economy, just weeks before an election the ruling party is expected to lose.

The 880 billion yen (US$10.7bil) in spending was more than double a package announced in October as the country gets set for polls that are expected to usher in Japan's seventh prime minister in six years.

However, the move, which came as official data showed Japan posted a surprise uptick in factory production last month, threatened to trigger vote-buying criticism from opposition lawmakers.

The spending will focus on boosting growth in a range of sectors, including healthcare and agriculture, as well as on public works projects following last year's quake-tsunami disaster.

Opinion polls suggest Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan will be defeated by the country's main opposition leader Shinzo Abe, who heads the Liberal Democratic Party.

Abe has vowed to spend heavily on public works and pressure the Bank of Japan into launching aggressive monetary easing measures to boost growth if his party wins the Dec 16 vote.

The BoJ has unveiled two policy easing measures in recent months as its counterparts in the United States and Europe launched huge moves to counter slowing growth.

Japan's economy contracted in the July-September quarter, nudging it toward recession and dousing hopes the nation had cemented a recovery after last year's twin disasters, which triggered the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

Masamichi Adachi, a senior economist at JP Morgan Securities, questioned the effectiveness of the latest government stimulus.

“While (the package) wouldn't be a poison, it wouldn't be a medicine either,” Adachi told Dow Jones Newswires.

A glimmer of hope emerged Friday as official data showed Japan's factory output rose 1.8% in October, the first rise in four months and beating market expectations of a 2.2% drop. Separate figures showed the jobless rate held steady while household spending for the month was better than expected, suggesting a possible improvement in consumer confidence. - AFP

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