TOKYO, Mar. 26 -- Japanese shipments of aluminium products rose 45.4 percent in February from a year earlier to 164,237 tonnes, industry data showed on Friday.
The February figures was up from January's 150,373 tonnes, figures provided by the Japan Aluminium Association showed, and snapped a run of month-on-month drops in the previous three months.
Shipments for the financial year ending on March 31 are estimated at 1.975 million tonnes, the association said.
The global economic crisis reduced demand for the metal as automakers and other manufacturers slashed production after late 2008, but demand for aluminium has returned to about 80-85 percent of levels seen before the crisis.
Japanese shipments of aluminium have been rising thanks to a recovery in demand in the automobile, electrical appliance and food sectors.
Prospects for demand for aluminium, used in products ranging from computers to planes, are improving outside Japan, underpinned by expectations for growth in India and China.
But aluminium industry officials remain worried about the pace of recovery this year as Japan's economy remains fragile in the face of persistent deflation and with notable weakness in the construction sector.
Reflecting their cautious outlook on demand, term premiums for primary aluminium shipments to Japan for April-June have mostly been agreed at $122-$124 per tonne, marking their first drop in a year, a pointer to easier supply and prospects of lower prices.
Also offering a gauge of lukewarm demand, aluminium stocks held at three major Japanese ports totalled 200,700 tonnes at the end of February, up 1,500 tonnes or 0.8 percent from a month earlier, trading house Marubeni Corp (8002.T: Quote) said earlier this month.
Japan's exports fell slightly in February, but a big rise in auto shipments to the United States showed exports are continuing to pick up on the back of a recovery in the global economy.
Japan's economy grew less than initially estimated in the fourth quarter and a broad gauge of price trends posted the biggest negative reading on record.
Japan is Asia's largest importer of primary aluminium, which is also used in packaging, with annual demand estimated at about 2 million tonnes.