Japan’s Industrial Output Falls 8.1% as Exports Drop by Record


Nissan Motor Co. employees assemble vehicles at the company’s Kyushu Plant in Kanda Town, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, on Nov. 23, 2007. Photographer: Robert Gilhooly/Bloomberg News

Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s industrial production fell the most in at least five years in November after exports dropped by a record.

Factory output tumbled 8.1 percent from October, when it dropped 3.1 percent, the Trade Ministry said today in Tokyo. The median estimate of 36 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 6.8 percent decline.

Plunging demand for cars and electronics is prompting companies to pare output, jobs and investment. Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s three largest carmakers, cut global production in November and chipmaker Renesas Technology Corp. yesterday said it would eliminate all of its 1,000 temporary workers.

“The recession is showing signs of growing longer and more severe,” said Tetsufumi Yamakawa, chief Japan economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in London. “Production is showing stronger signs of a correction in conjunction with a slump in demand in Japan and abroad.”

Read moreJapan’s Industrial Output Falls 8.1% as Exports Drop by Record

Japan auto production marks worst drop since compiling such data began in 1967

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s production of cars, trucks and buses marked its steepest drop in at least four decades in November, an industry group said Thursday, as the fallout from the U.S. slowdown crimped auto demand.

Vehicle production in Japan, home to Toyota Motor Corp. and other major automakers, plunged 20.4 percent in November compared to the same month a year ago to 854,171 vehicles, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

That marked the second straight month of on-year declines and the percentage slide was the biggest since the group began compiling such data in 1967, it said.

Read moreJapan auto production marks worst drop since compiling such data began in 1967

German car downturn worst ever

The trade body warns that car production will have to be cut

The downturn in the German car market is “at a pace and magnitude that has never happened before”, the country’s main auto trade body has warned.

As a result, the German Association of the Automotive Industry said new car sales in 2009 are expected to be the worst since reunification in 1990.

It added that Volkswagen, Daimler and Porsche will all have to cut output, which will “impact” on workers.

Last week Porsche delayed its takeover of Volkswagen, blaming falling sales.

Porsche said there were signs of a “serious slump” in global demand.

Challenging

Volkswagen itself has warned that the current sales environment is “difficult”, while Daimler, owner of Mercedes-Benz, said the situation is “very challenging indeed”.

German car sales are expected to slip to 2.9 million next year, down from the expected 3.1 million for 2008, says the trade body.

Car sales are also lower across Europe, with Italy’s Fiat warning that its 2009 profits could fall by 65%.

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Toyota woes deepen with rating downgrade


Toyota has lost its top credit rating

Toyota Motor, the world’s biggest automaker and a towering icon of Japanese industrial power, has been stripped of its AAA credit rating under the darkening global economic storm.

The downgrade, said analysts at Fitch Ratings, effectively passes sentence on the entire worldwide auto industry, showing that the business of building cars can no longer produce a single player with the sort of cast-iron corporate resilience of Exxon Mobil or Johnson & Johnson.

“This crisis is demonstrating that the auto industry cannot support a triple-A rating,” said Frederic Gits, a Tokyo-based credit analyst at Fitch Ratings, which issued the downgrade earlier today and declared the auto-industry’s problems “substantial and fundamental”.

Fitch Ratings’ downgrade of Toyota’s unsecured debt to AA deals a stunning blow to Japanese corporate pride, but reflects “severe” turmoil across world car markets and the company’s own spectacular profits warning earlier this month.

To demonstrate the extent of the problem, brokers in Tokyo have recently started circulating aerial photographs of a military airfield in Oxfordshire that has become a colossal warehouse for thousands of unsold cars.

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Toyota Will Cut 3,000 Jobs in Japan as Car Sales Fall


Workers assemble engines of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus LS600 hybrid sedan on the production line at its Tahara plant in Tahara, central Japan, on June 28, 2007. Photographer: Kimimasa Mayama/Bloomberg News

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) — Toyota Motor Corp., Japan’s biggest carmaker, will cut its domestic temporary workforce by 50 percent as vehicle demand slumps globally.

Toyota will cut the number of temporary workers to 3,000 from 6,000 by the end of March, spokesman Paul Nolasco said today in a phone interview.

The automaker follows Mazda Motor Corp. and Isuzu Motors Ltd., which yesterday said they would slash a combined 2,700 temporary jobs in Japan in response to slowing sales. Earlier this month, Toyota forecast a 68 percent drop in full-year net income, the biggest decline in at least 18 years, as a global recession cripples auto demand.

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US motor industry: The great breakdown

Such is the severity of the downturn in the global car industry that US manufacturers are now pushing for their own state bailout.

Why stop at the banks? Now governments around the world are pouring taxpayer money in to bail out loss-making financial institutions, it is getting harder to argue against subsidies, loans, guarantees and other forms of government assistance for other industries, too – particularly since the economic pain is now being felt far from Wall Street.

Which is why Rick Wagoner, chief executive of General Motors, the largest US carmaker, packed his suitcase for Washington and headed to the capital again this week. He is leading a lobbying push aimed at tapping taxpayers and staving off the bankruptcy of the loss-making company. GM’s coffers are being depleted at a rate of $1bn a month, and will run dry by the end of next summer. Little wonder its shares have touched levels not seen since it emerged from the Great Depression.

GM – owner of the Vauxhall brand and Chevrolet, amongst others – is in the throes of merger talks with its smaller rival Chrysler, which is also haemorrhaging cash. The hope is a merger will save money, allowing them to close more factories and cut more jobs. The trouble is, things are so desperate they don’t have the cash to write the redundancy cheques. They are asking for up to $10bn in low-cost loans to tide them over.

So here we are, on the brink of Bail-out II: Detroit.

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$16.3 trillion in stock value lost since Sept. 1; some brokers fear more drops

Signs of slowdown spiral around the world

Pessimism about the global economy deepened yesterday as fresh evidence of a worldwide slowdown showed up in feeble corporate profit reports from Asia, sinking commodities prices, and a scramble by emerging economies to prop up their sagging currencies and avert credit defaults.

The signs of trouble popped up around the globe. Japanese giants Sony and Toyota, as well as South Korea’s Samsung, the world’s largest maker of memory chips, flat-screen televisions and liquid crystal displays, posted weakened profits and sales outlooks. Toyota’s quarterly sales fell for the first time in seven years. Britain reported its first economic contraction since 1992.

Gloom about economic growth translated to low expectations for oil consumption. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries yesterday announced a cut of 1.5 million barrels a day in output – a move that still failed to arrest the slide in crude prices. Meanwhile, copper prices fell to a three-year low.

Investors around the world fled stocks and rushed to the relative safety of the U.S. dollar by pouring money into 30-year Treasury bonds, a refuge in times of uncertainty. That drove down the value of foreign currencies, from the ruble to the rupee and the zloty to the peso, forcing central banks to spend billions of dollars to prevent even further deterioration. The turmoil in currency markets threatened to reorder trade relations and complicate recovery efforts.

Read more$16.3 trillion in stock value lost since Sept. 1; some brokers fear more drops

Jobless set to top two million as the UK economy heads for meltdown


A JobCentre office

The true scale of the jobs disaster facing Britain is revealed today as experts issue dire warnings that up to half a million workers will lose their jobs over the next two years, as companies cut costs and scale back investment plans to survive the economic downturn.

Official figures are widely expected to reveal this week that the number of people out of work and claiming benefits increased for a seventh successive month in August.

Finance companies based in London’s Square Mile have already laid off thousands of workers since the US mortgage crisis unleashed chaos in the world’s markets last summer; and the 5,000 UK-based staff at crisis-hit investment bank Lehman Brothers are awaiting news this weekend about how many of them will be made redundant.

Read moreJobless set to top two million as the UK economy heads for meltdown