TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's crude steel production in 2009 dropped 26.3 percent from the previous year to 87.53 million tons, the lowest level since 1969 and a fall for the second consecutive year amid the recession, an industry group said Wednesday.
The yearly rate of decline was the sharpest ever since 1949 when comparable data became available, while the annual output figure tumbled below 90 million tons for the first time in 38 years after staying above 100 million tons since 2000, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation said.
Steel demand from the automotive industry contracted sharply in the first half of 2009. Although automakers subsequently began to increase demand moderately on a tax cut granted to buyers of eco-friendly cars, overall demand languished due to slow construction activity and investment in plants and equipment.
The production of specialty steel used to make automobiles and industrial machinery fell 38.4 percent 16.12 million tons, while that of ordinary steel decreased 22.9 percent to 71.41 million tons.
For the month of December, crude steel output jumped 19.6 percent from a year earlier to 8.95 million tons, rising for the second straight month, but the month-on-month increase was a modest 1.1 percent.
The growth was driven by increased exports to other Asian countries but demand in Japan remained weak, a federation official said.
The federation expects the production of crude steel in the January-March period to remain more or less unchanged from the preceding quarter.