TOKYO, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Japan's crude steel output is
expected to rise 1.9% in the January-March quarter from a year
earlier, helped by a recovery in manufacturing including
shipbuilding and machinery, its Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry (METI) said on Thursday.
This would mark the fourth straight quarterly increase and
bring annual output for the financial year to March 31 to 97.07
million tonnes, up 17% from a year earlier when the COVID-19
pandemic pushed production to the lowest in about 50 years.
METI estimated crude steel output at 24.15 million tonnes
for the three-month period, up from 21.34 million tonnes a year
earlier, also reflecting a demand pick-up in the autos sector,
where production has been hit by chip and parts shortages.
Japanese carmakers such as Toyota and Nissan
have seen production cuts since the summer.
"Our forecast is based on an assumption automakers will
boost output to recover a loss from the recent months," Daisuke
Matsuno, director at the METI's metal industries division, said.
"But there is a downside risk if car output does not rise
according to their plans," he told reporters.
Toyota said this week it would suspend production at five
domestic factories in January due to supply chain issues, chip
shortages and the pandemic.
Despite a steady recovery in crude steel production, the
estimated annual output in the world's No.3 producer will fall
short of the pre-pandemic 2019 level of 98.43 million tonnes.
"That is because of mixed reasons, including slow automobile
production and reduced steel output capacity," Matsuno said.
Nippon Steel shut a blast furnace in Kure, western Japan, in
September as part of its restructuring plan, announced early
last year, to cut nearly 10% of its production capacity as a
result of shrinking domestic demand and to cope with fierce
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and