Japan Copper-Alloy Output Slumps for Second Month on Exports

Japan’s output of copper and copper-alloy fabricated products declined 5.5 percent in December from a year earlier, dropping for a second month as the country’s exports slowed, an industry group said.

Production, including sheets and tubes, was 57,120 metric tons last month, compared with 60,461 tons a year ago, the Japan Copper & Brass Association said today, citing preliminary data. Output totaled 62,665 tons in November, down 5 percent from a year earlier.

Japan’s overall exports fell more than analysts forecast and the annual trade deficit swelled to a record. Shipments dropped 5.8 percent in December from a year earlier, compared with a median estimate for a 4.2 percent decline in a Bloomberg News survey of 23 economists. The annual trade deficit was 6.93 trillion yen ($76 billion), the finance ministry said yesterday.

“Lower demand from the semiconductor industry dragged output lower last year,” Tetsu Takahashi, chairman of the association, told reporters today in Tokyo. “We will see a recovery from April this year and production is expected to reach more than 800,000 tons in 2013.”

The country’s production fell 6.7 percent to 769,061 tons in 2012 from a year earlier, the second straight yearly drop and the lowest level since 2009, said Takahashi, also executive vice president of Kobe Steel Ltd.

Three-month copper rose 0.5 percent to $8,132.25 a ton on the London Metal Exchange at 5:51 p.m. in Tokyo. Copper, used in pipes, tubes and wires, has declined 3 percent in the past year.

Japan’s copper wire and cable shipments fell 1.2 percent 58,000 tons in December from a year earlier, dropping for the third time in four months, the Japanese Electric Wire & Cable Makers’ Association said on Jan. 21. They totaled 62,174 tons in November, up 2.9 percent from a year earlier. Shipments totaled 694,847 tons in 2012, up 2 percent from 2011.

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