TOKYO, May 21 (Reuters) - Japanese copper wire and cable shipments rose to an estimated 55,800 tonnes in April, up 6.5 percent from a year earlier, an industry body said on Friday.
It was down 7.2 percent from 60,145 tonnes in March, the Japanese Electric Wire and Cable Makers' Association data showed.
"Demand for copper wire and cable has bottomed out in some areas, where improvements are seen, but among all industries in Japan, ours still belongs to one of those that is struggling the most," Masao Yoshida, the association's new chairman and
president of Furukawa Electric Co Ltd (5801.T), told reporters.
Shipments have been recovering gradually since January 2009 when demand for copper, used extensively in utensils, construction materials and computer chips and often seen as a measure of economic activity, plunged as automakers cut output to cope with the economic crisis.
Demand has recovered to around 80 percent of pre-crisis levels, but persistent deflationary pressure in Japan and sluggishness in the construction sector, a major consumer of the metal, have clouded the outlook.
Japan's economy grew 1.2 percent in the first quarter, outpacing its euro zone and U.S. peers with the help of consumer spending and solid exports to Asia, but is seen slowing as the effect of government stimulus fades.
The market turmoil stemming from the euro zone's debt crisis is also a concern. Still, Japanese manufacturers turned optimistic for the first time in two years in May, a Reuters poll showed, providing further evidence of the economy's continuing recovery led by Asian demand.
Members of the cable makers' association include Furukawa Electric, Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd (5802.T), Fujikura Ltd (5803.T), Hitachi Cable Ltd (5812.T) and SWCC Showa Holdings Co Ltd (5805.T).