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(M1)‌‌ Needle Still Points North

     TOKYO (MNI) - The key points from preliminary February industrial
production released on Friday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
     * The index of industrial production rose 4.1% on month in February to a
seasonally adjusted 103.4 (100 in the 2010 base year), coming in weaker than the
MNI median economist forecast for +5.1%. It didn't make up for the 6.8% slump in
January, prompting METI to predict factory output is "unlikely to post a gain in
the first quarter."
     * The first month-on-month rise in two months was led by higher output of
passenger cars, production machines and electronic parts.
     * Based on its survey of manufacturers, METI projected that industrial
production would rise 0.9% on month in March (revised up from -2.7% forecast
last month) and gain 5.2% in April.
     * Adjusting the upward bias in output plans, METI forecast production would
rise at a slower pace of 0.5% on month in March. Based on this assumption,
industrial production would fall 2.0% on quarter in January-March, the first
drop in eight quarters.
     * METI maintained its assessment after downgrading it last month, saying
industrial production is "picking up moderately."
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-4670-5309; email: