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The government declared earlier this month that the economy has bottomed out.

Then came reports that for- eign investors have increased Japan’s weighting in their global equity holdings.

Another report showed Japanese export shipments turned markedly higher last month.

The reported pickup in exports to other parts of Asia can be taken to reflect an economic recovery in Asia.

Still, despite the slew of upbeat economic reports, worries remain over sluggish domestic demand in Japan and more threatened business failures.

Doubts also remain over U.S. economic prospects.

The major factor behind the Asian economic pickup in recent months was the steady U.S. economic recovery since the fourth quarter of last year.

With orders flowing in faster than shipments, the North American book-to-bill ratio now stands at 1.2, compared with 0.77 in the October-November period.

Against this backdrop, Taiwanese manufacturers have increased capital investment and are gearing up for increased consignment production.

Japanese semiconductor chip shipments have also turned markedly higher in recent months.

Despite the pickup in shipments, however, chip prices have turned lower on the world market.

Market prices have also apparently peaked for polyvinyl chloride pipe and other products widely used in the petroleum industry.

The increased production by Taiwanese manufacturers could backfire and weigh on market prices for their products.

The U.S. economy has undoubtedly pulled itself out of the slowdown, thanks to the repeated cuts in key short-term interest rates and the strong real estate market.

It is noteworthy that the U.S. Federal Reserve has succeeded in engineering a soft landing for the economy by slashing interest rates repeatedly.

Yet, doubts remain over U.S. and, hence, global economic prospects.

U.S. manufacturers have yet to bring their production capacity more in line with falling demand.

Japan remains overburdened with the negative legacy of the past decade.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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