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06 Nov 2008 01:39:40

TOKYO (Reuters) –
Toyota Motor Corp, the world's No.1 automaker, warned operating profits will sink to a 13-year low this year, as other carmakers sought more state help to ride out a financial crisis that is crippling demand and squeezing credit around the globe.

After a week of profit warnings from six of the seven other Japanese car makers, industry watchers had braced for similar pain at Toyota -- until recently the envy of the sector with eight straight years of profit growth.

But a 63 percent cut in forecast operating profit, to 600 billion yen ($6.1 billion), was far beyond the most pessimistic prediction -- and would be Toyota's lowest profit since 1995/96, and down 74 percent from a record 2.2 trillion yen last year.

"I was very much stunned," Koji Endo, an analyst at Credit Suisse. "First-half profit was already more than 580 billion yen, so that means the company is looking at virtually no profit in the second half.

A poll of 17 brokers had forecast 1.34 trillion yen for the year to March 2009.

The maker of the Camry sedan, Prius gas-electric hybrid and Tundra pickup has cut production, let go temporary staff and offered buyers unprecedented incentives as sales in key markets slide due to the spreading global crisis.

But its U.S. rivals are in more dire straits.

General Motors Corp warned this week that the industry's prospects are dwindling fast as a "near collapse" in demand for cars accelerates the pace of cash burn.

The chief executives of Detroit's Big Three -- GM, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC -- are scheduled to lobby House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi later on Thursday on the need for new and immediate aid, on top of $25 billion in loans sought from the outgoing Bush administration.

GM and Ford are expected to post dismal results on Friday.

Honda Motor Co Chief Executive Takeo Fukui, meanwhile, complained about wild fluctuations in the yen, saying authorities should step in to prevent a sudden rise in the currency -- a major culprit for Japanese car makers' revisions.


Toyota's forecast cuts came as an even bigger shock after a newspaper reported earlier that the figure could merely "fall short" of 1 trillion yen.

The Tokyo Shimbun daily report had sent Toyota shares down 10 percent in Tokyo, before the results were announced. Tokyo's transport sector subindex fell in line and Toyota shares in Frankfurt later slumped 13 percent.

"I had never imagined such a big downward revision on its earnings outlook and a sharp fall in its interim result," said Yasuaki Iwamoto, an analyst at Okasan Securities, predicting a sharp drop in the share price in Tokyo on Friday.

For the year to end-March, Toyota now expects 550 billion yen net profit instead of 1.25 trillion yen -- based on a dollar and euro average of 100 yen and 130 yen assumed for the second half, versus less favourable levels of 98 yen and 127 yen on Thursday.

The impact of a global credit crisis has spread to emerging markets such as China and India, throwing a wrench in automakers' plans to seek strong growth there to offset slumping sales in the big U.S. and European markets.

Toyota lowered its 2008/09 global sales forecast to 8.24 million vehicles from 8.74 million, expecting weaker demand in most regions.

"In this environment, it's impossible to tell when things will start to improve," Executive Vice President Mitsuo Kinoshita told reporters, adding he hoped the U.S. market would start to recover around the end of next year.

He said Toyota would urgently reduce costs and speed up the roll-out of fuel-efficient hybrids, starting with four new models next year.

Toyota's U.S. sales have fallen 12 percent so far this year, prompting the top Japanese automaker to lower its forecast there this week -- the second cut in four months.

Ford and GM welcomed government efforts on Wednesday to expedite regulations for administering the advanced technology loans. Industry believed two months ago that the financing for more efficiency would be enough to help it fund crucial projects, such as the electric Chevrolet Volt, and help it avoid further turmoil.

But Wall Street's meltdown and the cascading global credit crisis sank debt portfolios of the Detroit manufacturers and choked off consumer borrowing for auto purchases.

"There's widespread recognition that the economic downturn and the credit crunch totally changed the situation and that industry is facing serious difficulties, and there is a need for additional assistance," said Alan Reuther, legislative director for the UAW, the main autoworkers' union.

($1=97.81 Yen)

(Additional reporting by Sachi Izumi and Aiko Hayashi in TOKYO and John Crawley in WASHINGTON, Editing by Lincoln Feast & Ian Geoghegan)

6.11.08 12:14


05 Nov 2008 05:20:19

LOS ANGELES – A proposed ban on same-sex marriage in California — widely seen as the most momentous of the 153 ballot measures at stake nationwide — remained undecided early Wednesday.

The proposed constitutional amendment would limit marriage to heterosexual couples, the first time such a vote has taken place in state where gay unions are legal.

Sponsors of the ban declared victory early Wednesday, but the measure's opponents said too many votes remained uncounted for the race to be called.

Even without the wait, gay rights activists had a rough day Tuesday. Ban-gay-marriage amendments were approved in Arizona and Florida, and gay rights forces suffered a loss in Arkansas, where voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. Supporters made clear that gays and lesbians were their main target.

Elsewhere, voters in Colorado and South Dakota rejected measures that could have led to sweeping bans of abortion, and Washington became only the second state — after Oregon — to offer terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide.

A first-of-its-kind measure in Colorado, which was defeated soundly, would have defined life as beginning at conception. Its opponents said the proposal could lead to the outlawing of some types of birth control as well as abortion.

In California, the night had started out optimistically for many who believed that a large Democrat-voter turnout would help defeat the state's proposed ban on same-sex marriage.

With 90 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, the ban had 4,922,675 votes, or 52 percent, to 4,577,453 votes, or 48 percent, against.

Late absentee and provisional ballots meant as many as 3 million ballots were left to be counted after all precinct votes were tallied.

Similar bans had prevailed in 27 states before Tuesday's elections, but none were in California's situation — with thousands of gay couples already married following a state Supreme Court ruling in May.

Spending for and against the amendment reached $74 million, making it the most expensive social-issues campaign in U.S. history and the most expensive campaign this year outside the race for the White House.

Some in San Francisco vowed to continue fighting for the right to marry if the proposition does pass. "My view of America is different today," said Diallo Grant, a gay man with mixed-race parents. "The culture wars will continue."

The South Dakota measure would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. A tougher version, without the rape and incest exceptions, lost in 2006. Anti-abortion activists thought the modifications would win approval, but the margin of defeat was similar, about 55 percent to 45 percent of the vote.

"The lesson here is that Americans, in states across the country, clearly support women's ability to access abortion care without government interference," said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

In Washington, voters gave solid approval to an initiative modeled after Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law, which allows a terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication they can administer to themselves. Since Oregon's law took effect in 1997, more than 340 people — mostly ailing with cancer — have used it to end their lives.

Elsewhere, the marijuana reform movement won two prized victories, with Massachusetts voters decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug and Michigan joining 12 other states in allowing use of pot for medical purposes.

Henceforth, people caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or less of pot will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, they'll forfeit the marijuana and pay a $100 civil fine.

The Michigan measure will allow severely ill patients to register with the state and legally buy, grow and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.

Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington. Returns in Colorado on a similar measure were too close to call.

Ward Connerly, the California activist-businessman who has led the crusade against affirmative action, said Obama's victory proved his point. "We have overcome the scourge of race," Connerly said.

Energy measures met a mixed fate. In Missouri, voters approved a measure requiring the state's three investor-owned electric utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. But California voters defeated an even more ambitious measure that would have required the state's utilities to generate half their electricity from windmills, solar systems, geothermal reserves and other renewable sources by 2025.

Two animal-welfare measures passed — a ban on dog racing in Massachusetts, and a proposition in California that outlaws cramped cages for egg-laying chickens.

Amid deep economic uncertainty, proposals to cut state income taxes were defeated decisively in North Dakota and Massachusetts.

In San Francisco, an eye-catching local measure — to bar arrests for prostitution — was soundly rejected. Police and political leaders said it would hamper the fight against sex trafficking. And in San Diego, voters decided to make permanent a ban on alcohol consumption on city beaches.


Associated Press writer Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.

5.11.08 15:52

mortgage broker

03 Nov 2008 22:32:26

CHICAGO – Hundreds of mourners attended a private funeral service for Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson's slain mother, brother and nephew Monday at a South Side church.

A composed Hudson paused before the bodies of her relatives before giving her mother a final kiss, said attendees of the invitation-only service.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the Rev. Jesse Jackson were among those who spoke at the three-hour service for Darnell Hudson Donerson, 57, Jason Hudson, 29, and Julian King, 7.

The three were found shot to death late last month, the adults in Donerson's home and Julian in a vehicle found several miles away. Julian is the son of Jennifer Hudson's older sister, Julia Hudson.

No one has been charged in the shootings, although authorities have called Julia Hudson's estranged husband, 27-year-old William Balfour, a "person of interest." He remains in custody on a parole violation.

During the service, "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino sang the gospel song "Your Grace and Mercy," and at one point left the stage to take Jennifer Hudson's hand and sing directly to her, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Small blue tickets that read "Hudson Family Funeral" were needed to enter the massive Apostolic Church of God, but that didn't deter crowds of onlookers who gathered outside.

Glover Lewis, who lives in the same South Side neighborhood as the Hudson family, attended the services and told the Tribune he was touched by the way Hudson bid her family members goodbye.

"Jennifer is the pillar," Lewis said. "It's obvious she's holding the family together."

Shenika Bowers, 35, of Chicago was one of several dozen people who stood outside the church in hopes of sharing sympathies with the singer-actress.

"She needs us right now," Bowers said of Hudson. "She needs support from everyone who she can get it from. I cannot imagine how she feels, but I do feel for her."

Latosha Funches, 33, of Chicago, said she's been a Hudson fan since the singer was on "American Idol" and wanted to pass along her condolences.

"I have kids of my own, too," said Funches, who pushed her 11-month-old son in a stroller. "I know how she feels. I just hope she can get through it. She looks like she's very strong."

Jennifer Hudson was a finalist in the 2004 season of "American Idol" and she won her Oscar in 2007 for her film debut, a supporting role in "Dreamgirls."

Monday's services followed a public memorial held Sunday at Pleasant Gift Memorial Baptist Church, where Hudson sang in her childhood.

The bodies of Donerson and Jason Hudson were discovered Oct. 24 at the family's home. Julian's body was found three days later in a sport utility vehicle on the city's West Side.

Police arrested Balfour the same day the bodies of Donerson and Hudson were discovered. After 48 hours — the longest Chicago police can hold a person without charges — Balfour was taken by the Illinois Department of Corrections on a parole violation.

Balfour had served seven years for a 1999 attempted murder and vehicular hijacking conviction.

His mother, Michelle Balfour of Chicago, has denied that her son had anything to do with the deaths.

4.11.08 08:49

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