TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Crude steel production in Japan is forecast to increase 0.8 percent in the April-June quarter from the previous term to 17.83 million tons, partly because automakers have to some degree completed cutting their inventories amid the economic downturn, the industry ministry said Friday.
It is the first time in six quarters that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has projected a rise in Japanese crude steel output.
But on a year-over-year basis, the projected output represents a drop of 42.6 percent, the ministry said.
"We have to watch carefully as demand trends are uncertain," an industry ministry official said. "But it may be that production has bottomed out" as there are signs of a pickup in exports to other Asian countries.
Automakers' demand for ordinary steel in the upcoming quarter is expected to rise 10.2 percent from the current quarter, but drop 45.2 percent from a year earlier.