Japanese Unemployment Down, Nikkei Inches Up

In Asia Friday Japan's Nikkei 225 Index inched up 0.4% to 9,404. Markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai were closed for National Day celebrations.

A dip in Japan's unemployment figures was welcome news today. According to the government, joblessness edged down 0.1% from 5.2% to 5.1% in August. But according to Bloomberg, 90,000 more people are considered to have left the labor force since July. Some companies like Murata, which makes parts for TVs and smartphones are eliminating 3,000 part time workers and moving more production overseas to cut costs and make up for the high value of the yen, says Bloomberg Businessweek. This surely won't be putting cash in the pockets of Japanese consumers, and the recent fall in factory output numbers indicates that the recovery will be slow.

Toyota is among the companies contributing to the drop in output, with Reuters reporting that the company's domestic dealership filled 40% fewer orders in September. Early last month the government put an end to handing out subsidies for eco-vehicle purchases, and will reject around 52,000 applications received only a day before the program was stopped. Luxury sports utility vehicles saw the most dramatic decline in demand, while small car sales were least affected. Toyota now plans to slash domestic output for the upcoming month by 20%.

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Today Toyota shares slid 0.5% while other carmakers saw gains. Fuji Heavy Industry, the maker of the trusty Subaru brand, climbed 2.4%, Nissan soared 2.1% and Isuzu shot up 1.9%. Losers included Mitsubishi Motor, which tumbled 1.8%. Among car parts makers Nippon Sheet Glass, which supplies auto glass, sank 5.5%, Asahi Glass lost 0.5% and Bridgestone fell 0.7%.

Data showing that Japanese housing starts surged 20.5% in August provided another ray of hope today. Mitsui Fudosan rallied 3.7% and Mitsubishi Estate rose 3.2%. Tokyu Land advanced 1.2%. But a government official told Japan Today that even with the August increase, the level of housing starts was "still low."

Dianippon Sumitomo Pharma, a drug company that makes a number of remedies for various ailments including schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease, racked up a 3.4% gain. Other pharmaceutical companies also advanced with Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical rising 1.2%, Chugai Pharmaceutical up 1.1% and Takeda Pharmaceutical adding 0.8%.

Electronics companies had mixed results with Canon rising 1.9% and Toshiba reaping a 1.7% gain and Fuji Electric slumping 4.1%. Nintendo made up 0.5% of yesterday's 8.9% loss that came after admitting its new 3DS won't be ready in time for Christmas. Competitor Sony, the maker of the PS3 and hand-held PSP, plunged 1.7%. Even with the delay, hard-core gamers are bound to wait for the super-cool, glasses-free 3DS instead of buying a new PSP. As Geoff posted on pocketgamer.co.uk, "Whatever new features Sony has put in won't make much difference, 3DS is going to be a frikkin juggernaut, and that from a PSP owner."