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Japan Inc. Hesitates to Invest as Yen Spurs Nikkei Rally

The last time Masao Namiki bought machinery for his company, Emperor Hirohito had just died, Japanese investors took the Rockefeller Center as a trophy, and a new central bank chief was about to prick the bubble economy. It was 1989.

The $1 million Namiki borrowed to outfit his workshop with computerized lathes and drills almost bankrupted him as orders from clients Canon Inc., Panasonic Corp. and NEC Corp. evaporated. As interest rates cranked up to 6 percent, crashing stock and land prices wiped out $15 trillion in wealth and triggered an economic malaise that still drags on.