Finished lubricants consumption in Japan grew 15% year-to-year in March, the third month in the past four that output exceeded the corresponding month from a year earlier.
The nation – one of the world’s six biggest lube markets – consumed 143,430 kiloliters (129,000 metric tons) of finished lubes in March, compared to 124,808 kL in March of 2020, according to data released last week by the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
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The country’s lube consumption was up 7% in February, after decreasing 13% year-to-year in January and running 13% ahead in December. Like many markets, lubricant demand in Japan fell sharply early in the COVID-19 pandemic but gradually rebounded in the second half of 2020.
The Japan Center for Economic Research said in its April 5 short-term forecast that a steady recovery in exports of all products, coupled with a rebound in private consumption, is expected in the first half of fiscal year 2021, keeping domestic production of goods in Japan strong.
On the automotive production side, the center noted that with the exception of Toyota Motor Corp, all major manufacturers in Japan will be forced to reduce production in the first half of fiscal year 2021 due to supply shortages of semiconductors for automotive applications. The organization estimates that will have a downward effect on domestic production of 0.2% in January-March and -0.1% in April-June.
“Thereafter, the combination of recovering automobile production and the completion of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, for which orders have been very strong, will result in a clear increase in domestic production during July-December 2021,” the center said in its forecast.
Lubricant production, including volumes that are exported, increased 4% to 202,110 kL, compared to the same month last year, the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reported on April 30. Sequentially, this was 19% higher than 169,813 kL in February. Lubricant imports increased 16% to 22,145 kL in March. Exports for the month rose 24% to 69,962, up from 56,324 kL.