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Economy in Brief

Japanese Industrial Output Sluggish; Korea's Grows Unevenly
by Carol Stone June 29, 2005

Industrial activity in Japan and Korea shows sharply varying patterns, both in recent months and over the past several years. In Japan, mining and manufacturing output in May stood at 100.1, that is, barely above the amount five years ago for this index based at 100 in 2000. Looking at these endpoints, though, masks the recession in 2001 and a recovery in 2003 and 2004. However, the evolution over the past few months has started to show renewed hesitation. An industry segment in which Japan and Korea compete actively is motor vehicles. For Japan, the corresponding production sector, transport equipment (excluding ships and rolling stock), has been relatively volatile of late, but at 116.3 in May, the sector shows growth since 2000 averaging just over 3%.

Total output in Korea has been considerably more vigorous, with the May 2005 index standing a 128.8, an average annualized gain of 5.1% since the base year in 2000. Despite this attractive average, the gains have been uneven over time and across industries. Chemicals and products have been strong fairly consistently, and radio, TV and communications equipment showed sizable increases in 2003 and 2004, but some recent hesitation. The motor vehicle sector, illustrated in the second graph along with that in Japan, has grown 9% - 10% yearly, but after a spike in December and January, has weakened markedly. These latest declines carried total vehicle production down to the lowest in seven months and to a level just equal to the average monthly output in the last two years. They are probably just an adjustment to that end-2004 surge, but may skittishness some skittishness as world energy prices stay high.

Indexes, 2000=100,
Monthly, Seasonally adjusted
May 2005 Apr 2005 Mar 2005 Year Ago (Yr/Yr   % Chg) 2004 2003 2002
Japan: Mining & Manufacturing 100.1 102.5 100.6 100.5 100.2 95.0 92.0
  % Change -2.3 1.9 -0.2 0.9 5.5 3.2 -1.2
Transport Equipment* 116.3 126.4 117.7 113.4 113.5 108.5 105.2
  % Change -8.0 7.4 0.3 5.0 4.6 3.1 5.9
               
Korea: Mining & Manufacturing 128.8 128.0 129.9 126.6 125.7 113.7 108.4
  % Change 0.6 -1.5 4.3 4.0 10.8 4.9 8.1
Motor Vehicles 139.8 146.7 157.4 127.8 139.1 127.5 116.7
  % Change -4.7 -6.8 1.9 9.3 9.1 9.2 9.9
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