TOKYO, June 25 -- Japanese shipments of aluminium products rose 19.6 percent in May from a year earlier to 165,638 tonnes, industry data showed on Friday.
That marked the sixth straight month of year-on-year increases but the level of shipments was about 16 percent below May 2008, before the global economic crisis hit demand for the metal used in products ranging from computers, planes and electronics to the food sector.
Shipments were down 6.5 percent from April, the Japan Aluminium Association data showed, the third straight month-on-month decline.
Japan's shipments of aluminium have been recovering from a slump that set in after the global economic crisis in late 2008 and led automakers and other manufacturers to slash output and cut demand for the metal.
The pace of recovery this year is still unclear, especially as demand in the construction sector remains weak, even as the government raised its overall economic growth forecast for the financial year.
Reflecting a slow recovery in demand, term premiums for primary aluminium shipments to Japan for July-September were mostly agreed at $120 per tonne, down marginally from $122-$124 per tonne in the April-June period.
In the near term, expectations for Chinese demand were likely to help support Japan's aluminium product shipments, an industry official said.
Chinese demand for primary aluminium is likely to nearly triple to 43.6 million tonnes in 2020 from an estimated 15.5 million tonnes this year, the association said this week.
It estimated Japan's demand for primary aluminium at 1.9 million tonnes in 2010 and at 2.4 million tonnes in 2020, though it said the forecast was very optimistic, based on an assumption that robust global growth will push up 2020 demand to a level equal to a record marked in the past.
Aluminium stocks held at three major Japanese ports came to 204,800 tonnes at the end of May, up 14,300 tonnes or 7.5 percent from a month earlier, trading house Marubeni Corp (8002.T: Quote) said.