Japan’s customs-cleared trade surplus was 836.7 billion yen in April, up 26.6 percent from a year earlier and marking its second consecutive month of growth, due primarily to brisk exports to other parts of Asia, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report released Thursday.
Exports increased 1.6 percent to 4.4 trillion yen, up for the first time in 13 months, while imports fell 2.9 percent to 3.56 trillion yen, down for the ninth straight month, the ministry said.
Exports of automobiles and steel were brisk, but those of information technology products remained sluggish.
Automobile exports rose 21.5 percent and steel exports increased 24 percent.
Exports of communications equipment were down 46.1 percent and those of scientific optical equipment fell 26.9 percent.
The overall export increase “stems from recovery in manufacturers’ production worldwide, including those in Asian countries,” a ministry official said.
But the official said it is difficult to predict whether Japan’s trade surplus will continue to rise.
“The trade balance is influenced by the foreign-exchange rate, crude oil prices and domestic and overseas economic conditions,” he said. “Therefore, it is difficult to predict the trend.”
The trade surplus with other parts of Asia surged 93.1 percent to 318.8 billion yen, with exports up 8.8 percent to 1.89 trillion yen, marking the second straight month of increase, while imports fell 0.1 percent to 1.57 trillion yen, down for the second consecutive month.
Steel exports to Asia rose 30.9 percent and those of automobiles climbed 28.9 percent.
The yen exchange rate averaged 132.07 to the dollar in April, down 6.1 percent from a year earlier.
The trade data are measured on a customs-cleared basis before adjustment for seasonal factors.
The politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States decreased 3.5 percent to 646.2 billion yen, down for the first time in four months.
Exports fell 5.2 percent to 1.26 trillion yen, marking the 13th consecutive month of decline, while imports dropped 6.9 percent to 621.9 billion yen, down for the 11th straight month.
Exports of automobiles to the U.S. increased 11.5 percent, while exports of communications equipment decreased 59.1 percent. Office equipment, including personal computers, slid 21.6 percent.
Imports of communications equipment plunged 62.7 percent and those of semiconductors and other electronics components dropped 18.3 percent.
With the European Union, Japan’s surplus was down 29.5 percent, falling for the 20th consecutive month.
Exports dropped 8.9 percent to 650.3 billion yen, down for the 13th straight month, while imports increased 4.5 percent to 452.4 billion yen, up for the first time in five months.
Exports of automobiles increased 30.5 percent, but those of semiconductors and other electronics components decreased 33 percent.
Imports of automobiles rose 17.6 percent and those of pharmaceutics increased 18.1 percent.
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