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Although overall orders were down by 3% from the previous month to 5.97 million tonnes, those from the manufacturing sector rose by 1.7% to 1.59 million tonnes, according to the Japan Iron & Steel Federation.
“The mood among manufacturers is good, especially with the weaker yen, and we think that manufacturing demand will continue to improve slowly,” an official at Japan's largest steel producer, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp (NSSMC), told Steel First.
Automobile manufacturers -- the sector's biggest consumers – increased their orders by 0.4% to 719,000 tonnes, while those from industrial machinery and equipment manufacturers were up by 18.2% from the previous month to 156,000 tonnes.
Orders from electrical equipment manufacturers also rose by 7.1% from March to 123,000 tonnes.
Even demand from shipbuilders, which has been the hardest-hit segment of the manufacturing sector, rose by 1.8% to 299,000 tonnes.
Still, total manufacturing orders were down 3.8% compared with the same period in 2012, indicating that while the economy is improving, the pace of its recovery is still quite slow.
Meanwhile, orders from the construction sector took something of a breather in April, retreating by 3.6% month-on-month to 1.02 million tonnes, while those from dealers – an estimated 70% of which is destined for the construction industry – decreased by 7.8% to 1.12 million tonnes.
Nevertheless, on the year, demand from the construction sector was up by 10%.
“We think that construction demand will continue to grow faster than that for the manufacturing sector,” the NSSMC official noted.
Japanese steel demand is showing more signs of being well on the road to recovery, with manufacturing sector orders rising in April.