Quake budget agreed as auto markets suffer

JAPAN’S parliament yesterday passed a $50bn (£30bn) emergency budget for disaster relief after the 11 March earthquake and tsunami, a downpayment on what is set to be country’s biggest public works effort in six decades.

Opposition parties backed the first round of spending to finance work such as clearing rubble and building temporary houses.

Reaching agreement on subsequent packages is likely to be tougher, as funding is expected to involve tax hikes and bond market borrowing.

The effect of the quake on Japanese production was being assessed in the automotive sector yesterday, as Japanese new vehicle sales in April halved, sinking to the lowest monthly tally on record.

In stark contrast, the fortunes of South Koreas Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors brightened, as they benefited from the Japanese automakers’ woes to post double-digit growth in global sales for the month.

The market’s contraction marked the biggest-ever drop in monthly vehicle sales, excluding microcars, since records began.