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Shipments in March were also 1.5% higher on a year-on-year basis, putting an end to four consecutive months of declines, according to figures released earlier this week by the Japan Iron & Steel Federation (JISF).

In March 2013, steelmakers in the country shipped 6.97 million tonnes of finished steel.

The latest increase was the result of a 14% spike in exports to 2.68 million tonnes, though domestic shipments dropped 4.5% to 4.26 million tonnes, the figures showed.

Hot rolled strip was the only major product to experience a gain, however, with total shipments moving up to 1.78 million tonnes from 1.56 million tonnes a year earlier.

Galvanized sheet shipments fell to 1 million tonnes from 1.06 million tonnes while those for light bars dropped to 770,000 tonnes from 818,000 tonnes. Cold rolled sheet and strip shipments totalled 585,000 tonnes, compared with 608,000 tonnes a year earlier, while those for H-beam amounted to 372,000 tonnes, down from 394,000 tonnes.

Plate shipments moved sideways, at 959,000 tonnes, compared with 960,000 tonnes in March 2014.

Consumption

Meanwhile, Japanese steelmakers reported a 10.7% year-on-year drop in apparent steel consumption in March, on the back of another significant plunge in imports.

Consumption totalled 5.69 million tonnes on a crude steel basis, down from 6.37 million tonnes in March last year, according to JISF figures.

This is the seventh consecutive month of drops since September, when consumption fell for the first time after twelve months of increases.

JISF calculates consumption by adding Japan’s production to its import figures and subtracting exports, all on a crude steel basis.

Steel imports, on a crude steel basis, tumbled 33% to 514,000 tonnes in March, the lowest monthly level since September 2013, according to the federation’s figures.

This follows a nearly 17% drop in imports in February, to 526,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile, exports in March slid by a marginal 0.3% to 4.1 million tonnes on a crude steel basis.

JISF had previously reported a 4.5% drop in crude steel output in March, at 9.28 million tonnes.