The Finance Ministry downgraded its economic assessment for the first time in a year, mainly due to slower production and decreasing housing construction, according to a quarterly report released Wednesday.

The overall economic assessment by the ministry’s 11 regional financial bureaus says, “While the economy was unchanged in many regions, there are signs of improvement in some areas and weakening in others.”

The assessment was downgraded from the previous report in October, which said the economy had stopped deteriorating in almost all regions, with many of them showing improvement.

The latest report reflects slower industrial production in many of the local bureau jurisdictions. Some bureaus said output in sectors that include electric machinery and chemical industry slowed down.

Other financial bureaus, however, said they saw mild recovery signs in the iron and steel and auto industries mainly due to overseas demand for automobiles.

The quarterly report says capital investment remained weak in many regions.

Personal spending was unchanged from the previous report, with sluggish sales continuing in home electric appliances, including personal computers. But spending on overseas trips recovered as the impact on tourism of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States subsided.

The report says labor demand continued to shrink in all regions.

Among the jurisdictions, Kanto, Shikoku and Kyushu showed a deterioration. The other regions are Kinki, Hokkaido, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Tokai, Chugoku, Fukuoka and Okinawa.

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