Japan Copper-Alloy Output Drops for 3rd Month on Auto Demand

Japan’s output of copper and copper-alloy fabricated products declined 5.3 percent in January from a year earlier, slumping for a third month as demand from the automotive sector remained subdued, an industry group said.

Production, including sheets and tubes, was 56,690 metric tons last month, compared with 59,864 tons a year ago, the Japan Copper & Brass Association said today, citing preliminary data. Output totaled 56,997 tons in December, down 5.7 percent from a year earlier.

Japan’s trade deficit swelled to a record 1.63 trillion yen ($17.4 billion) in January on energy imports and a weaker yen, highlighting one cost of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies that are driving down the currency. Exports gained 6.4 percent last month from a year earlier, the first advance in eight months, while imports rose 7.3 percent, the Finance Ministry said on Feb. 20.

“Demand from the auto and semiconductor industries continued to slow,” said Keizo Tani, research manager at the association. “Overall sentiment was still subdued.”

The country’s output of the copper products totaled 768,938 tons in 2012, down 6.7 percent from 824,431 tons in 2011. That was the second straight annual drop and the lowest level since 2009. Copper for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.5 percent to $7,871 a ton at 11:52 a.m. in Tokyo and has declined 7.5 percent in the past year.

The Japanese currency has fallen 13 percent against the dollar in the past three months amid Abe’s calls for aggressive monetary easing to end deflation. The yen touched 94.77 yesterday, the lowest level since May 2010.

Japan’s copper wire and cable shipments dropped 2.7 percent to 54,500 tons in January from a year earlier, decreasing for a second month, the Japanese Electric Wire & Cable Makers’ Association said on Feb. 20. Keiichi Ohki, an official at the association’s research department, said that benefits from the weaker yen had yet to be felt.

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