Money Daily Brief: Japanese exports slump

Japan's exports fell 36 percent from a year ago.

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    The volume of containers, like these at a wharf in Yokohama, are dwindling at Japanese ports as exports and imports tumble.
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Japan's slump: Imports fell 43 percent in August from a year ago, exports dropped by 36 percent, and car shipments plunged 50 percent, in a sign of continuing trouble for the world's No. 2 economy. Also, Japan Airlines is asking for its fourth bailout in eight years as international travel falls. On a lighter note, Honda unveiled a new unicycle-inspired "personal mobility device."

Markets swoon: Several world stock indexes fell following the Federal Reserve's announcement that it would hold interest rates near zero and slow one of its stimulus programs. Traders worried stimulus funds might be withdrawn too soon. According to one report, the US central bank had discussed with market participants how to set up a system where it could take out short-term loans from well-positioned money market funds to stave off a rash of post-crisis inflation and to give the Fed the flexibility to ramp up interest rates in coming years.

Steel City limelight: World leaders descended on Pittsburgh for a G20 summit that promises a heady review of the financial meltdown, disputes over the role of the International Monetary Fund, and a US push for more domestic consumption in export powers like China and Germany. Expectations are mixed about how much the leaders will agree to do.

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German swagger: An economic research group said business confidence reached a 12-month high -- news that has reinforced the euro's prospects and may do the same for Chancellor Angela Merkel's increasingly tight reelection bid Sunday.

What ails Kenya? Widespread drought has sapped hopes that it would achieve its projected 3.5 percent annual growth. But when President Obama sat down with African leaders at the United Nations Tuesday, he blamed it on corruption, which explains why Kenyan leaders were uninvited to the luncheon. Kenya sent home 50 of its officials after an audit found that they were pocketing World Bank development funds.

Drew Hinshaw is a Monitor contributor in Accra, Ghana. For a closer look at the Federal Reserve's interest-rate stance, see Fed statement: interest rates won't go up anytime soon.

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