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Money Daily Brief: Unemployment falls in Japan

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Shizuo Kambayashi/AP/File

(Read caption) Tokyo's skyline shows signs of revival as cranes soar over construction sites. Japan's unemployment rate in August fell unexpectedly from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent.

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Japan unemployment down: The jobless rate fell unexpectedly to 5.5 percent in August from a postwar record. Household spending also grew despite a 2.2 percent drop in income from a year ago. But analysts cautioned that the gains may be temporary. Separately, Toyota's president said Friday the automaker's return to profitability would be complicated by the rising value of the yen. He also said the company was looking into claims that a floor mat causes accelerators to get stuck, which is suspected in the fatal crash of a California family in August and could trigger Toyota's biggest recall ever.

US targets North Korea: Borrowing from President Bush's playbook, the Obama administration is pressuring Pyongyang over its nuclear stance by squeezing it financially. US officials are making it difficult for the regime to conduct business abroad by warning Asian banks of dire consequences if any of their North Korean transactions involve counterfeit money or other illicit funds.

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•Asian stocks plunge: Markets plummeted in response to the Dow's 203-point drop Thursday. Taiwan's stock exchange logged its worst day since Aug. 18 after reaching a 15-month high.

EU hits airlines: European regulators said American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia violated European antitrust rules with a route-sharing alliance that shut out rival carriers. The European Union is also investigating plans to expand their oneworld alliance.

In my backyard: Beijing streets were quiet after Thursday's massive celebration marking the 60-year anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The regime showcased its military rather than its economic prowess, as the largest population in the world tuned in to watch a dazzling display of sophisticated weaponry, including new intercontinental ballistic missiles. But the real draw seemed to be neither the armaments nor President Hu Jintao's speech at Tiananmen gate, but the beautifully choreographed fireworks.

-- Sarah Burton is a Monitor contributor based in Beijing. For a look at US car sales after "cash for clunkers," click on Car sales down, but Ford is catching its Japanese rivals.

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