TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's crude steel output in October declined 12.9 percent from a year earlier to 8.8 million tons, slipping below the year-before level for the 13th straight month, an industry body said Thursday.
But the year-on-year decline slowed for the seventh consecutive month after a 46.7 percent plunge in March as exports to the rest of Asia including China expanded, said the Japan Iron and Steel Federation.
The October output increased 6.4 percent from the previous month, the first upturn in two months.
China's steel consumption has been expanding, while Japanese automakers have increased steel purchases on growing sales supported by tax breaks for environment-friendly cars.
Crude steel production at blast furnaces narrowed the year-on-year drop to 8.6 percent on recovery in demand from automakers. But electric furnace output, used mainly for construction, recorded a decline of 26.1 percent.
Japan's crude steel production is likely to "continue a moderate recovery," while domestic steel demand other than from automakers is expected to remain slack, a federation official said.
As Chinese and South Korean steelmakers plan to expand production next year, Japanese companies are concerned about an oversupply, the official said.