TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s crude steel output is expected to rise 0.6 percent in the January-March period from a year ago to meet growing demand, the trade and industry ministry said on Monday.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) estimated crude steel output would climb to 26.4 million tonnes in the first three months of 2018, which would be the second quarterly increase in a row.
Output in the October to December quarter was estimated to rise 0.9 percent from a year earlier, the ministry said, citing an industry survey.
For the current financial year to March, crude steel output is estimated to fall 0.1 percent to 105.08 million tonnes, which will follow an annual increase of 0.9 percent the previous year.
“Steel demand has been strong at home and abroad, but Japanese steelmakers have struggled to raise output due to technical troubles and longer maintenances,” Yasuji Komiyama, director of METI’s metal industries division, told a news conference.
JFE Steel, Japan’s second biggest steelmaker under JFE Holdings Inc, said in September it would halt operation of a blast furnace at its East Japan Works, near Tokyo, from late September until some time in October due to trouble, trimming its annual output by about 300,000 tonnes. [nL4N1LT1F2]
Demand for steel products, including for export, in the January-March quarter is expected to drop 1.4 percent from a year ago to 23.62 million tonnes, due mainly to weaker exports, the ministry said.
Exports are expected to decline 2.8 percent over the period as steelmakers slash exports to prioritize their deliveries to domestic customers, the ministry said.
Japan’s crude steel output in the business year starting in April 2018 is expected to rise slightly from the current year due to firm demand at home and abroad, an industry body predicted earlier this month. [nL4N1OI2EX]
Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gareth Jones