Japan's industrial output plunges

The BBC reports

Japan's industrial production fell by 10% in January - the biggest monthly drop since records began more than half a century ago, the government says.

It is the fourth successive month that factory output has fallen, as the world's second-biggest economy suffers its worst recession in decades.

The latest figures come days after the government said exports plunged 45.7% in January compared with a year ago.

Japan's economy is suffering because of falling demand for its products abroad.

Consumers around the world afraid of losing their jobs in the global downturn no longer want to buy Japanese electronic gadgets and cars, the BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo says.

The country's car production plunged a record 41% year-on-year in January, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers' Association.

It said 576,539 vehicles were produced in January compared with 976,975 for the same month of 2008.

Painfully exposed

The Japanese themselves are also shopping less, with average household spending falling 5.9% in January compared with the same month a year ago, our correspondent says.

Jobs are also being slashed - the number of people unemployed rose by more than 200,000.
"The recession is having an increasing impact on the real economy," Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano said.

Japan was once seen as relatively immune to the global crisis because its banks were not as exposed to bad loans as those in the US and Europe, our correspondent says.

But he says that Japan's reliance on foreign markets to drive its economy out of a long slump in the 1990s has left it painfully exposed.