Japan’s exports rose at the fastest pace in a year last month, boosting the likelihood of the economy returning to growth in the October to December quarter.

Exports rose 9.8% in December from a year earlier, the biggest jump in a year and a reversal from a 0.2% dip in the previous month, the Finance Ministry reported Wednesday. Economists had forecast a 9.2% increase. Shipments to the United States gained at a double-digit clip while those to China rose for the first time in 13 months.

Imports dropped 6.8%, compared with economists’ forecast of a 5.4% decrease. The trade balance flipped to a surplus of ¥62.1 billion ($419 million) from a revised deficit of ¥780.4 billion in the previous month. Declines in imports of coal and liquefied natural gas pulled overall imports lower.