October 9, 2018 / 10:27 AM / a year ago

Japan October-December crude steel output may rise on increasing local demand: METI

FILE PHOTO - A worker uses a mobile phone in front of steel coils and steel sheets at a distribution warehouse in Urayasu, east of Tokyo April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s crude steel output for the October to December quarter is expected to rise from a year earlier on solid local demand for automobiles as well as industrial and construction machinery, the industry ministry said on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) estimated crude steel output would rise to 26.45 million tonnes for the three-month period, up 0.2 percent from a year earlier. This follows a small year-on-year drop in the previous quarter.

Demand for steel products, including those for exports, is forecast to rise to 23.69 million tonnes in the October to December quarter, up 0.3 percent from a year earlier, the ministry said, citing an industry survey.

Exports, which typically account for about 40 percent of Japanese steel production, are forecast to increase 0.5 percent from a year ago during the period, the ministry said, shrugging off higher U.S. import tariffs on steel and an escalating U.S.-China trade spat.

METI’s forecast does not foresee any major impact from the tariffs, said Noriyuki Kuroda, director of the metal industries division at the ministry, at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Japan’s steel export to the United States are slightly weakening recently, but that’s because of strong domestic demand and not because of the U.S. tariffs,” he said.

He also said Asia’s steel demand is fairly healthy despite the U.S.-China trade conflict.

The United States last month slapped tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, which prompted Beijing to retaliate with duties on $60 billion worth of U.S. products.

The United States and China had already imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other’s goods.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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