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The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Friday downgraded its assessment of industrial production activities for the fourth consecutive month, saying they are on a “falling trend.”

Attributing the deteriorated view to a seasonally adjusted 2.1 percent drop in production in March and negative outlooks for both April and May, a ministry official called the fourth straight downward revision “very rare.”

Production has fallen rapidly since a sizable 4.4 percent decline in January, due mainly to slowing exports to the United States of chip-making machines, the sector that led the nation’s recent moderate recovery, the official said.

This pulled down production at mines and factories an adjusted 3.7 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter for an index reading of 102.8.

The quarterly decline was the first since the April-June period of 1999 and the largest since the 4.5 percent decline in the April-June term of 1998, the official said.

The March output index registered 101.7 against the 1995 base of 100, while the index of shipments shed an adjusted 2.6 percent to 103.3 and that of inventories rose 0.7 percent to 98.1. The ministry said it expects industrial output to fall 0.8 percent both in April and May.

However, for all of fiscal 2000, output gained 4 percent from the year before to 104.9, based on the rising trend seen until December.

In December, the ministry made a slight downward adjustment in its assessment on the output activities, describing their rising trend as “gradual,” followed by a revision in January that they were “flat,” and in February that they had “weakened.”

Falling output of chip-making machines for a recently unseen second straight month, mainly for export, helped drag down production of general machinery by 5.4 percent in March.

Output also fell 3.3 percent for electric machinery because of weak demand for electronics parts. Electric machinery also saw inventories rising 1.9 percent.

Decreased exports of cars to Europe and North America led transportation machinery output down by 4.9 percent.

Production of cellphones increased, however, for launches of new models.

Meanwhile, the decline in electric machinery before launches of new personal computer models for summer sales will likely contribute the most to depressing April output.

A decrease in automobile output is anticipated in May, the official said.

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