Japan’s core private-sector machinery orders rose a seasonally adjusted 4.9 percent in February from the previous month to 1.01 trillion yen, for the first rise in three months.

The Cabinet Office said Friday that the figure represents an unadjusted 7.2 percent expansion from a year earlier. Semiconductor-manufacturing equipment and computers are main items that contributed to the rise in February.

The result rekindled hope that core machinery orders might post growth in the January-March period for the second straight quarter.

Core machinery orders grew 6.0 percent in the October-December period after an 8.4 percent drop in the July-September quarter.

If orders remain unchanged in March from February, they will mark growth of 0.6 percent in the first quarter of this year.

To attain the initial government projection of a 9.9 percent rise in the January-March quarter, however, core machinery orders will need to jump 27.4 percent in March, a Cabinet Office official said.

The figure is even higher than the largest growth in the core machinery orders in the past, a 27.2 percent gain logged in October 1996, the official said, signaling it is almost impossible for the core orders to achieve the government projection.

The Cabinet Office left its assessment unchanged for the second straight month, saying, “There is a sign of improvement in core machinery orders.”

The official said, “It is clear that core machinery orders declined from July through October and they recovered in November and thereafter.”

Private-sector machinery orders are considered a leading indicator of corporate capital spending six to nine months ahead. The core orders exclude those for ships and orders from electric utilities, which tend to vary widely due to their large size.

In February, orders from manufacturers rose a seasonally adjusted 10.9 percent from the previous month to 434.5 billion yen after a 17.3 percent plunge in January.

Orders from nonmanufacturers edged up 1.4 percent to 577.8 billion yen for the second monthly rise.

Of the 17 surveyed manufacturing industries, orders from 11 sectors, including the electric machinery and chemicals sectors, gained while those from the remaining six sectors slipped.

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