Japan export growth rebounds in February, restoring trade surplus

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Japanese exports’ growth strengthened markedly in February as the yen held largely steady against the dollar, marking a third month of expansion for outbound shipments after a 15-month streak of contraction.

The value of Japan’s exports grew 11.3 per cent year on year in February, according to Japan’s Ministry of Finance, besting a median estimate of 10.6 per cent from economists surveyed by Reuters and ratcheting back up from a rise of just 1.3 per cent in January.

The value of exports to China jumped 28.2 per cent year on year after growing only 3.1 per cent in January. Shipments to all of Asia were up 20.9 per cent, accelerating from 6 per cent a month prior, while exports to the US rose 0.4 per cent, bouncing back from January contraction of 6.6 per cent.

The recovery for growth in outbound shipments came as the yen ended last month flat against the dollar, closing out February at its end-January level of about ¥112.8.

Imports’ value growth likewise exceeded expectations of a 0.6 per cent rise, expanding 1.2 per cent after jumping 8.5 per cent in January. Shipments from the US shrank 0.7 per cent compared to a rise of 11.8 per cent a month earlier. Imports from Asia fell 8 per cent, with those from China dropping 17.7 per cent year on year.

Those flows shook out to a trade surplus of ¥813.4bn ($7.3bn), essentially in line with a median forecast of ¥822bn and reflecting a quick rebound after January’s deficit ended a five-month streak of surpluses.

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