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Weak yen, sales recovery in China drive up Nissan quarterly profits

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TOKYO - Nissan says quarterly profit rose 57 per cent, driven by a weaker yen and strong sales in China and Japan.

The Japanese automaker reported net profit Monday of 84.3 billion yen ($823 million) for the October-December third quarter. That was up from 53.8 billion yen a year earlier.

It was a sharp improvement from the previous quarter, when profits rose 2 per cent. Sales rose 25 per cent to 2.5 trillion yen.

"Sales in Japan and North America helped offset emerging market volatility and sluggish conditions in Europe," Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a statement.

But operating income fell 87 per cent in the highly competitive North American market to just 3.4 billion yen. That was more than made up for by a 405 per cent increase in Japan.

Toyota and Honda earlier reported strong quarterly earnings, as Japanese automakers continued to benefit from a weaker yen, which increases the value of overseas earnings in yen terms.

Nissan's sales in China, which slumped in late 2012 after a flare-up in anti-Japanese sentiment, bounced back sharply, rising 94 per cent to 381,000 vehicles.

Sales in Japan rose 16 per cent to 151,000 vehicles, as customers rushed to buy before an increase in the consumption tax on April 1. The coming hike from 5 to 8 per cent should keep sales strong this quarter, but Japanese automakers expect a slowdown at home in the following months.

U.S. sales rose 12 per cent to 307,000 vehicles, driven by demand for the Altima and Pathfinder.

The decline in the European market is showing signs of bottoming out, Corporate Vice-President Joji Tagawa told reporters, but challenges remain in Thailand, Australia and Brazil.

Nissan maintained its forecast of selling 5.2 million vehicles and earning 355 billion yen for the fiscal year ending March 31.

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