• Kyodo

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Industrial output rose a seasonally adjusted 1 percent in April from the previous month for the first increase in three months, the government said Friday, signaling that the world’s third-largest economy may be starting to recover from last year’s consumption tax hike.

The index of output at factories and mines stood at 99.1 against the base of 100 in 2010, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report. The outcome, which follows a 0.8 percent fall in March, was better than an average market expectation of a 0.8 percent rise.

The ministry maintained its basic assessment of output, saying it is “showing signs of increase at a moderate pace.”

Nine out of 15 industry sectors saw their production rise.

Electronic parts and devices manufacturers saw their production increase by 5.2 percent due mainly to an increase in exports of parts for smartphones to China and elsewhere.

Output by the electrical machinery sector also gained 6.4 percent amid strong domestic demand for air conditioners.

Fabricated metals makers and petroleum and coal products manufacturers saw their production climb by 4.5 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.

Looking ahead, manufacturers polled by the ministry said they expect output to increase by 0.5 percent in May but fall back 0.5 percent in June.

A ministry official said the April outcome shows that the economy is “starting to shed the (negative) influence” of the 3 percentage-point tax hike to 8 percent implemented in April last year.

But the official noted that a pile-up in inventories in the transport equipment industry that includes automakers — a key component of production — could cap the topside of output down the road.

In April, the transport equipment sector saw its production fall by 0.7 percent amid sluggish sales of small passenger cars. The information and communication electronics equipment sector saw its production decrease by 6.6 percent due partly to weaker demand for personal computers.

The index of industrial shipments gained 0.4 percent to 97.7, while that of inventories was unchanged at 113.4.

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