TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's industrial output fell 3.1 percent in March from the previous month due to a slump in demand for passenger cars and electronic products, the government said Wednesday.
The March figure was far worse than a 0.7 percent decline expected by Dow Jones and Nikkei. It also marked the first decline in two months, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.
''Auto shipments were weak in the month as U.S.-bound exports of passenger cars declined,'' ministry official Michiko Kikuchi said.
Shipments of transportation machineries including passenger cars fell 4.5 percent month-on-month in March, while those of communication devices such as mobile phones and video cameras dropped 6.4 percent in the month.
The data confirmed worries that a slowdown in the U.S. economy was weighing on Japanese shipments. Experts also said the outlook for Japan's industrial production would remain bleak amid sluggish domestic consumption hit by soaring oil and food prices.
Overall industrial shipments in March declined 3.9 percent from the previous month, while industrial inventories edged up 0.2 percent, the ministry said.