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Japanese exports’ growth softened markedly in January as the yen strengthened visibly against the dollar during only the second month since the country’s outbound shipments exited a 15-month streak of contraction.

Exports grew 1.3 per cent year on year in January, well below median estimate of 4.7 per cent from economists surveyed by Reuters and down from a rise of 5.4 per cent in December.

The value of exports to China rose just 3.1 per cent year on year last month after expanding more than 12 per cent in December, while shipments to all of Asia were up 6 per cent, half the rate of the previous month. Exports to the US contracted 6.6 per cent after growing 1.3 per cent in December.

That deterioration in outbound shipments came as the yen strengthened markedly against the dollar, firming 3.6 per cent over the course of last month to ¥112.8.

Imports’ value grew 8.5 per cent year on year for the period, far beyond expectations of a 4.7 per cent rise as the value of shipments from Asia rose 7 per cent, with those from China up 7.2 per cent. Imports from the US grew 11.8 per cent year on year.

Those flows shook out to a trade deficit of ¥1.087tn, ending a five-month stretch of trade surplus and well exceeding a median estimate of a ¥636.8bn deficit.

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