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Japan factory output up for fourth straight month
Japan's industrial production edges higher in July but misses forecast
By The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) ' Japan's industrial production rose for the fourth straight month in July as factories pushed to recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Wednesday that industrial production climbed 0.6 percent from the previous month. Sectors that fueled the improvement included transport equipment and general machinery.

But the climb fell short of forecasts, reflecting the growing pressures of a strong yen and an uncertain global economy. In its previous report, the ministry had projected a 2.2 percent rise in July.

The world's No. 3 economy relies on exports to drive growth, and any downturn in overseas demand threatens to undermine progress made since the disaster. The tsunami wiped out much of Japan's northeast coast, damaging factories and disrupting critical supply chains for key Japanese industries like autos and electronics.

The auto industry has yet to completely bounce back. Monthly production figures released Tuesday by the country's car makers showed that most companies posted output declines in July. Worldwide production at Toyota Motor Corp. fell 6.1 percent from a year earlier, while Honda Motor Co. recorded a 34 percent tumble in global output.

The outlook for the coming months is mixed. The ministry expects production to jump 2.8 percent in August, then fall 2.4 percent in September.

Shipments in July rose 0.2 percent, and inventories slipped 0.2 percent, the ministry said.

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