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Economic ministers voiced concern Tuesday that the recent spikes in crude oil prices could undermine the economic recovery by hurting corporate earnings.

Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and economic and fiscal policy minister Heizo Takenaka made the comments at separate news conferences after crude oil futures hit a fresh record high of $49.40 a barrel Friday in New York trading amid escalating tensions in the Middle East.

“If crude oil prices stay at such high levels for a long time, that would have a negative impact on the economy,” Takenaka said. “We will continue to closely monitor developments in oil prices.”

Tanigaki said he still believes Japan’s fuel-efficient economy is resilient to oil price hikes but cautioned that continued surges would likely hurt the Japanese and the world economies.

Tanigaki said he will carefully watch developments in global oil markets but added he does not have immediate plans to deal with the situation.

METI study planned

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will soon conduct a survey on the effects of soaring crude oil prices on companies, according to a top ministry official.

Hideji Sugiyama, vice minister of economy, trade and industry, told a news conference that although the effects have not been serious, individual sectors may be adversely affected as prices have risen so high.

A liaison office set up by the ministry Aug. 5 to coordinate work among intra-ministry sections will analyze how higher crude prices are affecting major industrial sectors that rely heavily on oil, according to Sugiyama. Survey results will be compiled by the end of this month.

Sugiyama indicated that international coordination will be needed if Japanese firms are found to have been seriously affected by higher oil prices.

The recent oil price trend, which reflects instability in the Middle East and soaring demand in China, “cannot be dealt with by Japan alone because speculative moves are also involved,” he said.

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