Japan's Crude Steel Output Plunges

TOKYO Kyodo -- Crude steel production in Japan totaled 5.72 million tons in April, down 43.6 percent from a year earlier and marking the seventh consecutive monthly fall, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation said Thursday.

The dismal figure reflects the continued curtailment of output by steelmakers in the face of weakening demand from automakers, federation officials said.

The percentage decline in April production was the third largest for any month. Production in the preceding four months renewed record percentage falls.

By category, steelmakers in Japan produced 989,000 tons of specialty steel used in products such as motor vehicles, down 55.3 percent from a year earlier and marking the sixth straight monthly decline, according to the federation.

The production of ordinary steel, which has a wide range of applications, decreased for the seventh consecutive month to 4.73 million tons, down 40.3 percent.

But industry officials see signs of improvement in crude steel production as automakers and other users are easing production cutbacks following stepped-up inventory reductions.

There is no longer an unending fall in demand for steel products, Shoji Muneoka, chairman of the federation, said.