Japan's industrial production rose for the third straight month in June as companies led by automakers continued to revive output amid an ongoing recovery of supply chains after the March 11 tsunami.
Japan's output rose 3.9 percent in June from the previous month, data showed Friday, albeit slower than a 4.3 percent gain expected in a survey of economists by Dow Jones Newswires.
The ministry forecast output to rise 2.2 percent in July, better than an earlier estimate of a 0.5 percent gain, and 2.0 percent in August, although analysts warn that summer power consumption curbs add uncertainty to estimates.
"Industrial Production is on a recovery trend after the Great East Japan Earthquake," the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a statement.
Leading the rise were gains in automobile production and electronics parts and devices, the ministry said.
We had already expected a rise for the June industrial output, but the ministry's expectations for July have improved, which is reassuring" amid power constraint concerns, said Taro Saito, senior economist at NLI Research Institute.
he Japanese government has ordered major firms to cut peak electricity use by 15 percent between July and September, as most of the nation's nuclear reactors remain offline in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima plant.
The June figure nevertheless marked a slower pace of growth than May, which saw output rise 6.2 percent.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11 triggered a tsunami that tore into Japan's northeast coast, leaving 20,000 dead or missing while sparking meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Japanese production tumbled by a record amount in the quake's aftermath as companies shut plants amid power shortages and a scramble for key components, with supply chains broken.
As consumers slashed spending amid a mood of self-restraint following the disasters, the economy tipped into a technical recession in the first quarter.
Further data Friday showed that Japanese consumers remained cautious as household spending fell 4.2 percent in June, a steeper decline than market expectations of a 2.0 percent drop.
It had plunged 8.5 percent in March while the pace of decline eased in April and May by 3.0 percent and 1.9 percent.
Other data Friday showed Japan's core consumer prices rose 0.4 percent in June from a year earlier, slightly less than market expectations of a 0.5 percent gain.
The core consumer price index, which excludes volatile food prices, rose for the third consecutive month after gaining in April for the first time in more than two years, but analysts expect an eventual return to deflation.
The government will change the data's base year to 2010 from 2005 in July's result, which will be released next month, and will release revised CPI data covering January to June using the new base year.
The changes are expected to deflate the consumer price index.
Separate data showed Japan's unemployment rate rose to 4.6 percent in June, up 0.1 percentage points from the previous month, excluding figures from the disaster-hit northeast of the country.
The market had expected the rate to be flat at 4.5 percent, although analysts warn that the data masks the reality of the situation.
"These figures do not show the employment situation of the disaster-hit prefectures," said Saito. "The actual joblessness must be much worse than the announced reading."