Tokyo aide hints at surplus talksJapan's foreign minister...

BUSINESS DIGEST

September 11, 1993

Tokyo aide hints at surplus talks

Japan's foreign minister, in what appears to open the way to a loosening of this nation's stance, suggested yesterday that it might be acceptable for Japan and the United States to discuss setting numerical targets for reducing Japan's overall trade surplus.

The minister, Tsutomu Hata, did not clearly call for such targets and his remarks were disavowed by some other officials, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Masayoshi Takemura, the official government spokesman. Nonetheless, his remarks mirror a groundswell of opinion here in favor of numerical targets, an idea that Japan has resisted.

Crude oil prices plunge

Crude plunged yesterday to a three-year low as traders said high stocks and over-production by OPEC threaten to drive prices even lower.

At one point in yesterday's trading, U.S. crude prices dropped to $16.35 a barrel. Although still far from the three-year low of $15.30 a barrel set on June 20, 1990, traders said the market was ripe for falling further. The New York Mercantile Exchange's spot West Texas Intermediate crude futures contract settled off 21 cents a barrel to $16.76.

TWA sends air fares up

Trans World Airlines said it was raising one-way fares $10 and advance-purchase, round-trip prices $20. After initially balking, many competitors decided to follow the increases.

The higher fares are to be implemented today. Continental Airlines said it also would raise prices, while Delta and American airlines said they would increase only advance-purchase tickets.

Md. jobless claims down 5.7%

The number of newly unemployed Maryland residents who filed for jobless claims in the week ended Aug. 28 dropped 5.7 percent from the previous week to 3,275, the state announced yesterday. It was the third straight week of decline.

Maryland's jobless statistics are typically released with the federal jobless claims statistics each Thursday, but the state's numbers were not available until yesterday this week.

Vietnam invites business

Vietnam said yesterday that U.S. companies were welcome there despite a U.S. economic embargo and hinted that Mobil Corp. was in line to win a major oil deal.

The message came with a report by the official Vietnam News Agency of unusually full remarks by Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet in a previously unreported meeting on Thursday with a Mobil vice president. President Clinton is due to decide in a few days whether to renew the 29-year-old embargo against Hanoi.

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