Money Daily Brief: Japan sees 'signs of recovery'

Everett Kennedy Brown/Pool/AP
Japan's newly elected Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama arrived for his first day on the job. He met union heads to tackle Japan's 5.7 percent unemployment rate, its highest on record.

– Updated 9:42 EDT (13:42 UTC)

Japan's cautious recovery: The Bank of Japan voted to keep its interest rate at an ultra-low 0.1 percent -- a sign that the central bank remains skeptical about the strength of the global upswing, even as the bank announced that the nation's economy is "showing signs of recovery." Comments by the bank's governor triggered a jump in the yen.

Shares jump: Most major Asian stock markets soared, allowing the MSCI Asia Pacific Index to reach a one-year high, following generally positive news in Asian and American manufacturing markets. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 2 percent as a senior government economist said China's annual growth rate may return to double digits in the fourth quarter.

Do-it-yourself fervor: Europe's biggest home improvement retailer, Kingfisher, announced 35 percent first-half profit gains, saying "DIY is cool again."

Housing intervention: Shares of Allied Irish Banks rose sharply after it said it would sell 24 billion euros ($35.3 billion) in troubled property loans to Ireland's agency set up to take over soured assets. The value of real estate developments has fallen by half since 2007, a government official said. In the US, senators are considering extending, and perhaps doubling, the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. The National Association of Home Builders says the housing market's tenuous gains will be cut short if lawmakers let the program expire.

New construction: US housing starts reached a nine-month high in August, although all the gains came from condos and other multifamily units. Separately, the number of US initial jobless claims fell by 12,000 last week to reach 545,000.

In my backyard: Nigeria's oil militants say they'll leave the country's pipelines and oil tankers alone for another 30 days in hopes of a more "meaningful dialogue" with the government, whose amnesty program is rumored to have brought in top militant leaders.

Drew Hinshaw is a Monitor contributor in Accra, Ghana. For a look at how many Americans' retirement savings have rebounded, click on 401k plans revive from bear market wreckage.

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