Japan's industrial production plummeted by a record 22.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the previous three months, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report on Thursday.

On a monthly basis, industrial output was up 1.6 percent in March versus expectations for a 0.5 percent increase following the 9.4 percent decline in February. The March number marked the first increase in five months.

The inventory-shipment ratio was down 4.9 percent on month. Inventories were down 3.3 percent compared to the previous month, while shipments were up 1.4 percent.

On year, industrial production dropped 34.2 percent - slightly better than forecasts for a 34.7 percent decline following the 38.4 percent contraction in the previous month.

Japanese companies' forecast for industrial output in April is up 4.3 percent on month, followed by a 6.1 percent jump in May.

Following the release of the data, the METI said that industrial output may not yet have bottomed out, and that the inventory adjustments are not yet finished. In order for recover, the government said, stronger shipment numbers are required.

Also on Thursday, the Nomura/JMMA Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index posted a seasonally adjusted score of 41.4 in April, up from 33.8 in March. The index remained below the 50 mark that indicates contraction for the 14th consecutive month, although the rate of contraction has slowed for the third straight month. The output index moved up from 25.9 to 39.4 in April, also climbing for the third straight month. The index continues to recover from a record-low score of 18.5 in January.

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