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Although there is little dispute that a ray of hope is flickering at the end of the tunnel, the steps needed to get the economy back on track remain anybody’s guess.

Worries remain over structural problems — bad loans held by banks and threatened bankruptcies of big-name companies.

It is encouraging to note, however, that an inventory adjustment has been well under way in manufacturing industries.

Thanks to production cutbacks since the beginning of last year, manufacturers have begun working off their backyard stockpiles of unsold products.

Global inventories of information technology components — a typical example of stockpiles of unsold products now weighing heavily on the world economy — have finally been on the decline.

Among them, integrated circuit chips and thin film transistors are now in short supply and are becoming costlier to obtain worldwide.

Prices of steel, pulp and other products sensitive to ups and downs in domestic demand have apparently hit bottom.

Much of the downtrend in exports has also run out of steam.

Still, when it comes to structural problems, the underlying economic fundamentals of the nation remain in dire straits.

The strategy for disposing of bad loans held by banks and liquidating failed companies remains unclear.

The economy remains saddled with the heavy burden of these structural problems.

With the March 31 end of the fiscal year drawing near, government ministries and agencies appear intent on averting a critical situation.

They appear guarded against anything that could send stocks and bonds reeling, which would widen losses being incurred by financial institutions and other firms.

Unless the nation can get over its structural problems, a solid economic recovery can hardly be discernible.

Consumer spending and business fixed investment remain mired at depressed levels and can hardly be major driving forces for an economic recovery.

Japan may have to wait for some more time for ripples of the expected U.S. economic recovery to spill over into the domestic economy.

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