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Updated from 2:30 a.m. EDT

Japan's No. 3 automaker



reported a narrower-than-expected loss for the fiscal year ended March 31 of 233.7 billion ($2.4 billion), and said losses will continue as it expects next year to remain "challenging."

Nissan reported a 482.3 billion yen profit the previous fiscal year ended March 2008.

Nissan said net revenue in the latest fiscal year was 8.437 trillion yen, while the operating loss was 137.9 billion yen.

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"The global economic recession and financial crisis continue, but we are beginning to see some signs of improved access to credit, the impact of government stimulus packages and a gradual return in consumer confidence," said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn, in a statement Tuesday. "We remain cautious about the economic environment and fully focused on our company's recovery efforts."

Nissan said worldwide sales of 3.41 million vehicles in the latest fiscal year were down 9.5%, while sales in the U.S. tumbled 19.1%.

The automaker forecasts sales of 3.08 million units for the next fiscal year.

For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010, Nissan expects a net loss of 170 billion yen on net revenue of 6.95 trillion yen.

"2009 will be another challenging year. Our priorities will be preserving cash, improving our profitability and pursuing deeper synergies within the Renault-Nissan alliance," Ghosn said.

Nissan Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said Tuesday the automaker had been hurt by three factors -- the U.S. financial crisis, the global slowdown and the strong yen.

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