Japan's industrial output in May logged the second-largest monthly rise on record, signalling a continuing recovery for the economy from the impact of the March quake and tsunami, data showed Wednesday.
Factory output soared 5.7 percent from the previous month, beating market expectations of a 5.5-percent increase and following a revised 1.6-percent monthly rise in April as auto sector supply chains continued to recover.
"Industrial production is on a recovery trend after the Great East Japan Earthquake," a government statement said, referring to the March disaster that triggered a nuclear accident, plunging Japan into its worst post-war crisis.
The data showed the biggest jump in production since a 7.9 percent increase logged in March 1953, at the start of a period of extremely sharp growth in Japan that propelled it to the status of global economic powerhouse.
"Shortly after the earthquake, production in the transport equipment (automobile) sector dropped sharply. We are seeing a rebound from that," said an economy, trade and industry ministry official.
The regions directly affected by the March disasters, including the northern Pacific coastline that is dotted with strategic parts production hubs, collectively logged an 18.8-percent jump in production.
The rest of the nation marked a 4.5-percent rise.
Meanwhile, shipments in May jumped 5.3 percent, rising for the first time in three months. Inventories rose 5.1 percent, marking a second straight monthly increase.
The latest data meant Japan was on its way to an early V-shaped recovery as supply chains and production continue to be restored at a fast pace, noted Hidehiko Fujii, chief economist at Japan Research Institute.
He said overall production in June will likely return to the levels seen before the disasters.
However, manufacturers might have rushed to produce in May to cope with a government order to reduce energy consumption before an expected hot summer when general electricity will likely spike, the ministry official added.
The Japanese government has ordered major firms to cut electricity use by 15 percent with most of the nation's nuclear reactors offline in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant caused by the tsunami.
The ministry said prospects for Japanese output were brightening -- a more optimistic assessment than a month ago, when it said output was "expected to recover gradually".
The government expected continued production increases, forecasting a 5.3 percent rise for June and 0.5 percent in July.
The moderate July forecast suggests "companies are offering a conservative estimate" to balance production plans and the requirement to save energy, Fujii said.