• Kyodo

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Japan’s industrial output rose for the first time in five months in June as economic activity that had stalled amid the coronavirus pandemic began to pick back up, government data showed Friday.

The seasonally adjusted index of production at factories and mines rose 2.7 percent from the previous month to 80.8 against the 2015 base of 100, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report.

The rebound prompted the ministry to say industrial output has “bottomed out” and shows signs of “picking up,” an upgrade from “rapidly declining” in April and May.

Production by automakers rebounded as some overseas markets that had withered under lockdown measures began to reopen and supply chain disruptions were resolved. In Japan, the end of a nationwide state of emergency in May brought consumers back to showrooms.

“Some factories are still running at limited capacity but many are now back on track,” said a ministry official who briefed reporters.

Manufacturers of production machinery such as excavators and those used to make flat-panel displays also saw output rise, while that of chemical and paper manufacturers decreased.

The index of industrial shipments in June increased 5.2 percent to 80.8, but inventories fell 2.4 percent to 100.8.

Based on a poll of manufacturers, industrial output was forecast to increase 11.3 percent in July and rise 3.4 percent in August.

But a recent rise in coronavirus cases in Japan, particularly in urban centers such as Tokyo and Osaka, makes it difficult to make accurate predictions, the ministry official said.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it will not call another state of emergency as it looks to balance controlling the pandemic with putting the economy on a recovery track.

“But if new infections continue to increase, it may become necessary to bring back restrictions on economic activity,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute.

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