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TOKYO: Japanese rubber futures surged to a six-month high on Wednesday, helped by growing hopes that automobile production will pick up from a slump driven by microchip shortages. Weakness of the yen against the U.S. dollar also provided support.

Osaka Exchange’s rubber contract for April delivery finished 9.4 yen higher at 247.8 yen ($2.2) per kg. It hit the highest since May 31 at 254.5 yen earlier in the session.

“Expectations that automakers will boost output from December or early next year lent support,” said Jiong Gu, an analyst at Yutaka Shoji Co.

Honda Motor Co last week said its Japanese car factories will return to normal operations in December, having worked at about 90% capacity this month because of the chip shortage and supply disruptions from COVID-19 lockdowns overseas.

Toyota Motor Corp the world’s top-selling automaker, this month said it would begin in December to make up for production lost from supply shortages, with factories in Japan returning to normal for the first time in seven months.

The U.S. dollar edged up marginally to a four-and-a-half-year peak of 115.22 yen. A weaker yen makes yen-denominated assets more affordable for buyers with other currencies.

The rubber contract on the Shanghai futures exchange for January delivery rose 75 yuan to finish at 15,685 yuan ($2,456) a tonne.

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