UPDATE 1-JFE posts smaller-than-expected quarterly loss

Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:23am EDT

* Quarterly pretax loss 6.3 bln yen vs 24.3 bln profit yr ago

* No 2012/13 earnings forecast

* Shares down 0.3 pct after results

TOKYO, April 20(Reuters) - JFE Holdings Inc, the world's No. 5 steelmaker, booked a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss as the yen's drop from a record high and recovering Japanese car production offset slower export demand.

Japanese steelmakers, which sell more than half of their products overseas, are struggling with weaker exports because of a slowing economy in China, the world's biggest consumer of the alloy used in construction, ships and cars.

Still, the yen's decline to 80 against the U.S. dollar from a record high of 75.7 in October and a recovery in domestic auto output after the earthquake and tsunami last year are helping to bolster steelmakers' earnings.

JFE booked 6.3 billion yen ($77 million) in recurring loss, which is before tax and special items, for January to March, the company said on Friday. The steelmaker said in January it estimated a loss of 19.31 billion yen.

The company reported recurring profit of 24.3 billion yen in the corresponding period a year earlier.

The stock fell 0.3 percent after the earnings announcement.

Shares in JFE have risen about 10 percent since the start of 2012, outperforming its bigger rivals Nippon Steel Corp's 6 percent gain and POSCO's 0.6 percent decline. ($1 = 81.5450 Japanese yen) (Reporting by Yuko Inoue; Editing by Ryan Woo)