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Crude steel production totaled 107.75 million tons in 2002, up 4.7 percent from 2001, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation said Monday.

This tops the 100 million ton mark for the third consecutive year, according to the federation.

It also constitutes the eighth-largest figure on record, reflecting brisk shipments to domestic automakers as well as strong exports, the federation said.

It is the largest figure since 1991, when crude steel output stood at 109.65 million tons.

Of the 2002 total, production of specialty steel rose 7.9 percent to a record 20.4 million tons, bolstered by strong demand from the auto industry.

In December alone, crude steel output rose 12.4 percent from a year earlier to 9.3 million tons, up for the ninth straight month.

Of the December total, production of ordinary steel grew 10.2 percent from a year earlier to 7.49 million tons, while that of specialty steel jumped 22.2 percent to 1.8 million tons.

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