Japan’s exports grew more than expected in January, providing much-needed support for the economy and keeping the door open for the Bank of Japan (BOJ) as it inches toward ending its negative rate policy.

Exports rose 11.9% in January from a year earlier, beating economists’ forecast of a 9.5% gain, the Finance Ministry reported Wednesday. Imports declined for a 10th month, falling 9.6%, spurred by slides in coal and liquefied natural gas. That compared with a consensus for an 8.7% decline.

The timing of the lunar new year holidays skewed year-on-year comparisons by boosting exports to China. The trade balance flipped to a deficit of ¥1.76 trillion ($11.7 billion) from a revised surplus of ¥68.9 billion in December.