Japanese government promises to back quake-hit companies

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese government on Monday promised to support companies affected by a series of quakes on the southern manufacturing hub of Kyushu, but declined to say whether the disaster would affect the timing of a sales tax hike next April. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the government would give necessary financial support including companies impacted by the quakes and the government could utilize reserved fund of 350 billion yen ($3.24 billion) as needed. The Japanese share market plunged more than 3 percent on Monday after earthquakes measuring up to 7.3 magnitude struck southwestern Kyushu island, killing at least 42 people and forcing major companies to close factories. (Reporting by Ami Miyazaki, writing by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Stephen Coates)