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Japan’s industrial production in February fell a seasonally adjusted 2.1 percent compared with the previous month, according to preliminary figures released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Wednesday.

However, ministry officials said there was no basic change in production trends and kept its overall assessment of output unchanged for the six month in a row.

The index of output at mines and factories stood at 100.3, against the base of 100 for 2000, METI said in its report. The index reading followed a reading of 102.5 in January, which was the highest since the 102.7 registered in December 2000.

February’s fall, the first in two months, was worse than the 1.3 percent decline the market expected in January, when production rose 2.5 percent from December.

Production fell in all of 16 sectors in February, the first time this has happened since March 1998. Output in electrical machinery fell 4.5 percent from the previous month due to weak demand for vehicle engines and other products, a ministry official said.

But the ministry left its comprehensive assessment of the nation’s industrial production unchanged, saying, “Output tended to be flat,” the same wording it used to describe output in the previous five months.

The ministry said none of the manufacturers polled for the survey indicated output conditions were deteriorating.

“The figure worsened because the previous month’s data were good and some of the manufacturers in the semiconductor and other sectors have put off production plans for various reasons,” the official said.

Looking ahead, METI forecasts industrial production will rise 0.9 percent in March and 3.6 percent in April.

Manufacturers expect strong demand for communication equipment devices and computers in the coming months and project an increase in output in March, the end of the fiscal year, the official said.

The index of industrial shipments shrank 3.8 percent to 101.9, the first decline in four months, while that for industrial inventories increased 1.4 percent to 92.4 for the second straight monthly rise.

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