TOKYO, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Japanese copper wire and cable shipments climbed 1.3 percent in August from a year earlier, helped by rising demand from the auto sector, although they were still the third lowest on record for the month.
Separate data showed output of rolled copper products dropped 5.3 percent, the biggest year-on-year fall this year as demand for use in chips, connectors and automobiles remained weak.
Japanese appetite for copper, often seen as a gauge of economic activity and already weak in the wake of the global financial crisis, took a fresh beating after March earthquake prompted user industries to reduce domestic production.
August shipments of copper wire and cables totalled an estimated 53,700 tonnes, data from the Japanese Electric Wire and Cable Makers' Association showed. That was less than a revised 54,840 tonnes for July.
Cable and wire shipments for the auto sector showed their first year-on-year rise in 10 months, climbing 6.5 percent to 5,500 tonnes, as carmakers ramped up production to make up for output losses after the quake.
Those for electronics makers gained 3.6 percent to 12,800 tonnes, their first rise in five months, as companies steadily restore damaged supply chains.
Shipments for the construction sector, which accounts for nearly half of Japan's demand, rose 3.5 percent to 23,400 tonnes on reconstruction work.
Wire and cables are the biggest application of copper in Japan.
Rolled copper output remained at a low level with August output at 70,670 tonnes on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Japan Copper and Brass Association said.
The year-on-year decline of 5.3 percent was greater than the 4.2 percent fall for July.
Compared with the previous month, output fell 1.7 percent.
"Demand from carmakers remained weak overall, affected in part by the March earthquake," the industry body said.
The only bright spot for rolled copper was the air-conditioner sector, which is continuing to see steady production even though its peak-demand season has passed.
Sluggish exports have also dampened copper output.
Wire and cable exports fell 21.2 percent to 1,600 tonnes in August as demand in China, the world's biggest consumer, wanes.
Japan is the world's second biggest copper producer after China.
Japan's total exports in the year to August climbed at less than half the pace expected as global economic slowdown, a strong currency and Europe's sovereign debt crisis put the country's own recovery increasingly in doubt.