* Demand picks up from auto and electronics sectors
* But rolled copper product still down 48.6 pct year/year
TOKYO, May 22 (Reuters) - Japan’s output of rolled copper products climbed 28.7 percent in April on a rise in demand from the auto and electronics sector, although output was still down by almost half from the same month last year.
Masao Yoshida, newly appointed chairman of the Japan Copper and Brass Association, said some product output had bounced back in April after aggressive efforts to cut inventory from January to March.
Still, consumption of the industrial metal in Japan, the world’s No. 2 economy, was 48.6 percent lower than in April 2008, down for the ninth straight month, as demand remains weak while the nation grapples with its sharpest economic downturn on record.
Officials also remained wary of saying whether output had pulled out of its nosedive.
“Seen from a broader perspective ... I can’t help but remain cautious,” said Yoshida, who is also president of Furukawa Electric Co Ltd (5801.T).
Output of rolled copper product in April came to 41,709 tonnes, preliminary data issued by association showed on Friday.
For a breakdown of the final data for March, and comparisons with February and a year earlier, click:
JAPAN: MONTHLY BRASS DATA......<BRDATA/JP1>
An association official said rolled copper product output, which typically averages about 1 million tonnes a year, only came to 806,999 tonnes in the year ended in March.
He added that it may not top that figure this financial year.
Japanese copper wire and cable shipments fell 26.3 percent in April from a year earlier, slipping year-on-year for the seventh straight month, industry data showed on Thursday. [ID:nLL425943]
Domestic copper smelters have said they will extend production cuts introduced at the start of the year until September, or the first six months of the current financial year.
Masanori Okada, head of the Japan Mining Industry Association, told a news conference on Thursday that while there were some signs of a recovery in domestic demand, it was unlikely to be enough to merit returning to full copper production. [ID:nT330244] (Reporting by Miho Yoshikawa; Editing by Hugh Lawson)