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Industrial production fell for the first time in three months in May because automakers did not launch new models, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report Thursday.

Output dropped a seasonally adjusted 1.0 percent in May compared with the previous month, while the index of output at mines and factories dipped to 104.0 against the base of 100 for 2000, METI said in the report. The market expected a 0.1 percent fall.

Nevertheless, METI kept its basic assessment of industrial output the same for the sixth straight month, saying, “Activity is gradually drifting upward.”

Although the transportation equipment sector dragged down May’s data, a METI official said the production situation overall is “generally firm,” with manufacturers forecasting rises in both June and July.

Looking ahead, METI said manufacturers forecast a 2.7 percent rise in industrial production in June and 1.1 percent growth in July.

In the reporting month, production of cars with engines bigger than 2 liters for domestic shipment was less robust than minivehicle output. Output of personal computers dropped due to a lack of new models and demand for lithium-ion batteries also fell because of weaker demand for exports, he said.

Production of machines to manufacture semiconductors and cement rose in May, as did output of electrical parts and devices for computers and mobile phones, the official said.

The index of industrial shipments slipped 1.0 percent to 108.2, also the first drop in three months, with falls in transport machinery, including auto parts.

Shipment of petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel oil and kerosene, fell in line with price hikes and weaker demand compared with April, when cold weather pushed up demand.

In contrast, shipment of tissue paper and toilet rolls went up with the announcement of future price increases, and that of newspapers rose on demand for special editions related to the World Cup soccer tournament.

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