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TMCNet:  Kyodo economic news summary -5-+

[April 16, 2010]

Kyodo economic news summary -5-+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TOKYO, April 16 -- (Kyodo) _ ---------- Thousands stranded at Singapore airport due to Iceland volcanic ash SINGAPORE - Several thousand airline passengers were stranded at Singapore's Changi Airport on Friday after flights to Europe were canceled due to volcanic ash from Iceland sweeping across Europe.

An estimated 4,500 passengers were affected, though not all were necessarily stranded, as a result of the cancellation of 15 flights to and from Europe on Friday, including those of Air France, British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airline, Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines.

---------- Volcanic eruption in Iceland beginning to affect Japanese firms TOKYO - The volcanic eruption in Iceland and the subsequent closure of airports in Europe are affecting Japanese firms operating in the region, company officials said Friday.

Firms including Sony Corp. are canceling business trips by employees in Europe while others are concerned about possible delays to the delivery of mail and other items to and from the region.

---------- 4 travel agencies to jointly buy air tickets from airlines TOKYO - Four major and midsize travel agencies said Friday they will set up a joint venture this summer to buy international air tickets from airlines in greater bulk in a bid to bolster their cost competitiveness.

The four -- Nippon Travel Agency Co., Toptour Corp., NOE Corp. and F-ness Corp. -- believe purchasing in bulk will give them better sales incentives from airlines, leading airlines to effectively cut tickets' wholesale prices.

---------- JAL receives far more early retirement applications than planned TOKYO - Struggling Japan Airlines Corp. has received early retirement applications from far more than the originally planned 2,700 employees, JAL group sources said Friday.

JAL plans to ask some of the employees to withdraw their applications or delay their retirement until after the end of May deadline as the retirement of the employees en masse would affect the airline's services, they said.

---------- Japan's FY 2009 nuclear power use rises but far below gov't target TOKYO - The operating rate of Japan's atomic power plants stood at 65.7 percent in the year through March, rising from the previous year but well below the government's long-term target, data released by a government body showed Friday.

The result is due largely to prolonged shutdowns at part of the nation's 54 nuclear energy plants for safety checks that followed revelations of flaws at some facilities.

---------- Gov't asks farmers to advance vegetable shipments to stem price hikes TOKYO - The farm ministry on Friday asked a national federation of agricultural cooperatives to advance the shipment of vegetables to stem their soaring prices, ministry officials said.

Vegetable prices are rising "almost across the board" in the face of record-setting rainfalls, low temperatures and shortage of sunlight, one of them said.

---------- Sharp to double LCD panel production capacity at Osaka plant OSAKA - Sharp Corp. said Friday it will double the production capacity at its liquid crystal display panel plant in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, in July, three months ahead of schedule.

The announcement follows rival Panasonic Corp. this week beginning mass production of LCD panels three months earlier than the original plan.

---------- Gov't remains upbeat on Japan's economic recovery: report TOKYO - The Japanese economy remains on a track of recovery amid improving corporate sentiment although unemployment rates are still high and price developments are marking mild deflation, the government said in a monthly report released Friday, holding its key economic assessment.

"The economy has been picking up steadily," the Cabinet Office said in its April report, using the same expression as last month. It also said the economy is "weakly self-sustaining and remains in a difficult situation such as a high unemployment rate." ---------- N. Korea launches 5-yr, $120 bil. project to rebuild economy PYONGYANG - North Korea has launched a five-year, $120 billion infrastructure-building project in eight cities as part of a 10-year plan to rebuild the economy, a manager of a state-run investment group said Friday.

Pak Chol Su, chairman of the Korea Taepung International Investment Group, expressed hope companies from Japan, South Korea and other neighboring countries will invest in the development plan that began this year.

(c) 2010 Kyodo News International, Inc.

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