Japan's factory output grew the most in six months in November as a recovery in export demand from Asia boosted production of cars, flat screen televisions and other goods in the world's second-biggest economy.
Factory output — a key barometer of Japan's economic health — was up 2.6 percent from October and logged its ninth consecutive month of growth, the government said Monday.
"A recovery in exports, especially in Asia, supported growth in industrial output," said Hideki Matsumura, senior economist at the Japan Research Institute.
Japan's exports to Asia totaled 2.7 trillion yen ($30 billion) in November — more than those to North America (920 billion yen) and Western Europe (624 billion yen) combined, the finance ministry said last week. Exports to China alone in November rose 7.8 percent, the first increase in 14 months.
Among key sectors, November output for transportation machines, which include passenger cars, jumped 5.9 percent. Output for information technology equipment, which includes popular liquid crystal display televisions, gained 2.7 percent.
Shipments in November edged up 0.9 percent month-on-month with inventories rising 0.2 percent. The government forecast industrial output will grow by 3.4 percent in December and 1.3 percent in January.
While growth in Japan's factory output was stronger than expected, the nation's retail sales in November fell 1.0 percent from a year earlier, marking the 15th consecutive month of decline.
Japanese retail sales continued to sink amid a prolonged slump in domestic demand, with department sales down 9.6 percent and food retail sales falling 4.1 percent in the month, the trade ministry said.
Japan has struggled to shake off its worst recession since World War II amid deflation and a strong yen, which erodes the profits of Japanese exporters.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama vowed Friday his government would do its utmost to spur Japan's nascent economic recovery. He unveiled a record 92.29 trillion yen ($1 trillion) budget for the next fiscal year starting in April 2010.
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