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Economy Briefs: Americans re-embrace Japanese cars, lifting sales

- - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

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DETROIT — Just when Detroit seemed to be luring them away, Americans are embracing Japanese cars again.

Toyota and Honda lost ground last year after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami limited their supplies. But July's U.S. sales show they've nearly regained what they lost, at the expense of GM and Ford.

General Motors Co. sales fell 6 percent and Ford Motor Co. sales were down 4 percent compared with last July. Honda Motor Co.'s sales were up 45 percent and Toyota Motor Corp. jumped 26 percent. Overall car and truck sales rose 9 percent to 1.15 million, according to Autodata Corp.

"Toyota and Honda have regained all of the share they lost, and much faster than we thought they would," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence for the car buying site TrueCar.com.Toyota commanded 14.3 percent of the U.S. market in July, up from 12.3 percent a year ago and back to pre-earthquake levels. GM had a 17.4 percent share, which matched its pre-earthquake level and was down from 20.3 percent last July.

LABOR

Private survey: Businesses added 163,000 jobs in July

A private survey shows U.S. businesses kept hiring at a modest pace in July, suggesting the job market could be improving after three sluggish months.

Payroll provider ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 163,000 jobs last month. That's slightly below a revised total of 172,000 jobs it reported for June.

The report only covers hiring in the private sector and excludes government job growth. The Labor Department will offer a more complete picture of July hiring on Friday.

The ADP survey offered some hope that hiring is picking up. But it has often deviated sharply from the government report. In June, the Labor Department said employers added just 80,000 jobs, less than half the figure reported by ADP.

The government's report is expected to show employers added 100,000 jobs in July, according to survey of economists by FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to stay at 8.2 percent.

IMF

Lagarde says European bank can do more to boost euro

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde on Wednesday urged the European Central Bank to take further steps to stabilize the eurozone's economy.

Ms. Lagarde told reporters that the world economy is experiencing a decline in confidence, driven by doubts about the ability of European and U.S. leaders to manage financial problems. She said European leaders should maintain a "crisis management mode" as they seek to address the debt crisis.

Her comments come a day before the ECB meets to decide on interest rates. Ms. Lagarde noted recent comments by the bank's president, Mario Draghi, to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro.

"More can be done," Ms. Lagarde said, adding that low inflation allows for more aggressive steps to strengthen the euro.

Mr. Draghi has said the ECB could intervene in bond markets and push down high borrowing rates that are threatening heavily indebted governments such as Spain and Italy with financial collapse. But he hasn't said what the bank might do.

USDA

Drought: Half of counties now disaster areas

ST. LOUIS — More than half of U.S. counties now are classified by the federal government as natural disaster areas mostly because of the drought.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Wednesday added 218 counties in a dozen states as disaster areas. That brings this year's total to 1,584 in 32 states, more than 90 percent of them because of the drought.

The latest additions make drought-affected farmers and ranchers eligible for federal aid including emergency loans.

The USDA also announced ranchers may access some 3.8 million acres of conservation land for haying and grazing, and crop insurance companies have agreed to provide farmers a penalty-free grace period on insurance premiums in 2012.

Counties included in the announcement are in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

From wire dispatches and staff reports