South Korea's LG Display Co Ltd <034220.KS> posted on Thursday a steeper-than-expected quarterly operating loss due to weak LCD panel prices, but forecast improvements in prices and shipments as the sector slowly recovers.

The liquid crystal display (LCD) industry has been battered by steep falls in prices of screens used in flat TVs and computer monitors, which forced makers to slash output sharply in the second half of last year.

Hopes are growing for a turnaround in the second half as sliding prices have boosted appetite for LCD TVs, but excess capacity remains a concern.

LG Display , the world's second-biggest LCD maker, expects the average price of its panels to rise gradually in the current quarter and panel shipments to increase by a mid- to high-20s percent in the same period. Panel prices on average fell 13 percent from the fourth quarter.

It said its factory utilization rate had improved to 93 percent in the first quarter, from 80 percent in the fourth.

LG Display, which ranks behind Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS>, posted a 412 billion won ($310.7 million) operating loss for January-March, worse than a 399 billion won loss forecast by Reuters Estimates.

That contrasted with a 881 billion won operating profit a year ago.

Its first-quarter net loss came at 255 billion won, better than the consensus forecast. Consolidated first-quarter sales were 3.67 trillion won.

Many analysts expect LG Display to swing back to profit in the third quarter, helped by growing demand for TVs and strong performances by major clients such as LG Electronics Inc <066570.KS> and Chinese TV makers.

China's policy to subsidize electronics purchases in rural areas is fuelling demand in the country.

Lifted by recovery hopes, shares in LG Display jumped by more than a third in January-March, beating the broader market's <.KS11> 14 percent gain.

(Reporting by Rhee So-eui; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)