The nation’s trade surplus rose 10.3 percent in April from a year earlier to 1.14 trillion yen as exports outpaced imports, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.
Exports, such as automobiles for the United States and semiconductors for the rest of Asia, outpaced imports despite a continued surge in import oil prices.
The politically sensitive trade surplus with the U.S. jumped 26.2 percent for the third consecutive month of year-on-year increase.
Since both exports and imports are seeing growth, it is difficult to say how the trade balance will change in coming months, a ministry official said. The trade surplus fell 14.9 percent in March and increased 26.7 percent in February after 10 straight months of decline.
Economic growth in Japan’s major trading partners can boost its exports while the domestic recovery helps shore up Japanese imports.
Exports in April rose 8.8 percent to 4.38 trillion yen, a year-on-year increase for the sixth time in a row. Electronic parts such as semiconductors increased 21.6 percent, while autos were up 7.7 percent.
Imports went up 8.2 percent, also for the six consecutive month of increase, to 3.23 trillion yen, boosted by a 68.5 percent surge in crude oil imports. This was mainly because the yen-based average oil price in the month was 86 percent higher from a year earlier, even though the volume of oil imports lost 9.4 percent.
The yen averaged 106.02 to the dollar, up 12.8 percent.
A stronger yen can be a factor in making Japanese goods more expensive abroad and imports to Japan cheaper.
In its trade with the U.S., exports advanced 5.8 percent to 1.34 trillion yen for the third straight month of increase, while imports dropped 11.2 percent to 613.5 billion yen for the fourth consecutive month of decrease. The resulting trade surplus came to 725.3 billion yen.
The exports to the U.S. were particularly boosted by an 18.1 percent expansion in auto exports, such as recreational vehicles. In volume, 186,487 cars were sold to the U.S., the largest level since October 1992, when 186,661 cars were exported.
Among imports from the U.S., aircraft — one of the most volatile items — plummeted 85.8 percent since only one large airplane was bought compared with four a year earlier.
The trade surplus with the rest of Asia rose 55.4 percent to 443.9 billion yen. Exports, including semiconductors, increased 19.4 percent, while imports, such as oil products, gained 10.8 percent.
With the 15-member European Union, the trade surplus slipped 2.6 percent to 347.1 billion yen. Exports, including semiconductors, edged up 0.7 percent, while imports such as telecommunications equipment rose 3.8 percent.
The euro’s weakening against the yen helped shrink receipts of euro-based exports, the official explained.