• Kyodo

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Japan posted a goods trade surplus of ¥152.51 billion ($1.30 billion) in November after imports fell more than exports on cheaper crude oil prices and the yen’s strength, the government said in a preliminary report Monday.

A breakdown of the third consecutive monthly surplus shows that the value of exports fell 0.4 percent from a year earlier to ¥5.96 trillion, for 14th straight month of decline, while imports sank 8.8 percent to ¥5.80 trillion, down for the 23rd consecutive month, the Finance Ministry said.

Thanks to growth in auto parts exports to China, overall exports marked their smallest drop in 14 mouths, but drops in imports of medicine, crude oil and liquefied natural gas weighed down imports overall, the data showed. The value of crude oil imports plunged 14.4 percent from a year earlier.

The yen gained 13.5 percent in November from a year earlier to ¥104.94 per dollar. A strong yen tends to push down import prices while making Japanese products more expensive abroad and reducing the value of overseas profits in yen terms.

A Finance Ministry official said the yen’s recent weakening against the dollar following the election of Donald Trump as next U.S. president will be reflected in trade data for December.

The official said the soft yen is expected to increase the value of exports, adding, “We will watch factors carefully, including auto parts exports to China.”

Analysts said exports, a key driver of Japan’s economic growth, appear to be recovering, adding that moves in the yen and in crude oil prices are in focus.

“We may see a boost to (Japanese) exports if the global economy recovers led by growth in the United States, as expected by financial markets in the recent ‘Trump’ rally, but I’m skeptical,” said Toru Suehiro, senior market economist at Mizuho Securities Co.

Rising for the first time in nine months, exports to China, a major destination for Japanese products, gained 4.4 percent to ¥1.10 trillion, and imports fell 9.9 percent to ¥1.49 trillion, down for the eighth straight month.

Japan’s exports to the United States dropped 1.8 percent to ¥1.21 trillion, down for the ninth straight month, and imports slid 5.1 percent to ¥630.12 billion also for the ninth straight monthly decline.

Exports to the European Union declined for the second straight month, down 2.2 percent to ¥633.26 billion, while imports shed 13.3 percent to ¥716.95 billion for the ninth consecutive monthly decrease.

The figures were measured on a customs-cleared basis.

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