(Recasts, adds Federation official's quotes)
* Apr-Feb output climbs 4 pct to 101.77 mln T
* Output in fiscal 2013 on track to hit 6-year high
* Rush to build homes and buy cars before tax hike boost
By Yuka Obayashi
TOKYO, March 19 Japan's crude steel output rose
year-on-year for a sixth straight month in February and was set
to hit a six-year peak in fiscal 2013, driven by higher demand
for houses, cars and electrical home appliances ahead of a sales
tax hike in April.
Crude steel production, also buoyed by higher public works
spending, rose 1.40 percent in February from a year earlier to
8.44 million tonnes, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation said on
Solid demand for the alloy could underpin profits for
Japanese steelmakers such as Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp
and JFE Holdings Inc.
"(Growing) demand for automobiles and home appliances such
as refrigerators, air conditioners, and laundry machines helped
boost output of wide strips," said a researcher at the
"In addition, active construction of houses, warehouses and
hospitals led to 21 consecutive months of rises in H-shape steel
Crude steel output for the first 11 months of fiscal 2013
that ends on March 31 rose 4 percent to 101.77 million tonnes,
supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to revitalise
Japan's economy with fiscal spending and monetary easing.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry forecast in
December that the nation's crude steel output in fiscal 2013
will climb to a six-year high of 111.88 million tonnes, up 4.3
percent from a year earlier.
All eyes are now on the aftermath of the sales tax hike.
Japan's top steelmaker Nippon Steel sees only a short-term
impact on demand and no lasting damage from the tax hike as it
will be offset by the government's stimulus measures, its
incoming president said on Friday.
The steel federation has predicted that crude steel output
will weaken slightly in fiscal 2014 year-on-year due to the
sales tax hike.
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)