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August opposites for Japan, United States -- but clouds loom over Rising Sun

TOKYO -- August was a banner month for auto sales; in Japan, if not the United States.

Domestic sales here shot up 47 percent, reportedly the biggest monthly jump since 1968, for a 13th straight month of gains. The total includes cars, trucks and buses. But the bounty of buyers is still stunning, given Japan's anemic economy and decade-long trend of falling sales.

And it looks all the better, compared to the 21 percent drop in U.S. sales for the same month.

As you might expect, there's a catch.

U.S. sales posted a big tumble compared to 2009 because the cash for clunker program lifted volume last year. In Japan, subsidies play an equally important, but opposite role.

Japanese customers were rushing to showrooms in August to snap up cars because this country's own eco-car subsidies are set to expire at the end of this month.

The upshot is that October in Japan could look a lot like August in America. Maybe worse. Some analysts are forecasting monthly sales to implode by 30 percent.For Japan, the hangover is right around the corner. Then it's back to malaise as usual.

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