TOKYO, April 27 (Kyodo) - Japanese industrial production grew an unadjusted 4.7 percent in fiscal 2006 ended March 31 from the previous year, lifting the index to the highest level on record, the industry ministry said Friday.
The index of output at mines and factories stood at 106.9 against the base of 100 for 2000, marking the fifth straight year of expansion, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report.
The index of industrial shipments increased 4.9 percent to 110.2, also an all-time high and posting the fifth straight year of increase.
The index of industrial inventories climbed 1.6 percent to 91.5, up for the third straight year.
Economists said they expect Japan's industrial output to keep rising in fiscal 2007, given firm corporate capital spending and exports.
''We still see a risk of lower productivity in the high-tech sector,'' said Mamoru Yamazaki, chief economist at RBS Securities Japan Ltd., citing a rise in inventory by electronic parts and device makers.
''But we expect industrial production to maintain a growing trend in fiscal 2007 bolstered both by domestic demand, especially capital investment, and external demand'' as the world economy is likely to post a solid expansion, Yamazaki said.
According to the report, output by electronic parts and device manufacturers rose 16.0 percent in fiscal 2006. Production by transport equipment makers and general machinery makers was up 7.2 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.
In contrast, output by textile makers decreased 3.2 percent, and that by manufacturers of petroleum and coal products fell 3.0 percent.
In March alone, the output index contracted a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent from the previous month to 107.2.
The decline compared with an average market forecast of a 0.9 percent increase in a Kyodo News survey. It also followed a 0.7 percent increase in February.
Despite the decline in March, the ministry said, industrial production is ''on a gradual upward trend,'' leaving its assessment unchanged from the February report.
The fall was led by electrical machinery makers, down 8.1 percent, and general machinery manufacturers, down 4.7 percent.
Meanwhile, output by electronic parts and devices manufacturers grew 2.9 percent, and that by chemical companies, excluding drug makers, was up 1.1 percent.
The index of shipments dropped 1.5 percent in March to 109.7 after staying flat in February.
The index of inventories dropped 0.5 percent to 96.1, down for the third straight month.