Japan’s goods trade surplus came to ¥418.77 billion ($3.8 billion) in July thanks to solid growth in exports, but narrowed from a year ago on a in energy imports, government data showed Thursday.
The figure represents a 17.0 percent fall from the previous year. Exports gained 13.4 percent to ¥6.49 trillion while imports soared 16.3 percent to ¥6.08 trillion, according to the preliminary report issued by the Finance Ministry.
Strong exports of large cars and auto parts helped the nation report a double-digit increase in exports in July. Some economists have predicted the pace of growth will likely slow following solid gains in recent months.
Among energy imports, liquefied natural gas jumped 46.8 percent from a year ago and coal surged 67.7 percent, both in value terms.
Japan’s heavy reliance on energy imports such as crude oil and LNG makes Japan sensitive to movements in energy prices.
The yen’s weakness against the dollar is also believed to have boosted the value of imports to Japan. The dollar averaged ¥112.41 in July, sharply higher than its ¥103.14 rate a year ago.
Japan had a trade surplus of ¥646.99 billion with the United States as exports rose 11.5 percent to ¥1.32 trillion and imports gained 13.9 percent to ¥671.75 billion.
Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S. has become a sensitive issue since President Donald Trump took office. He has taken aim at trade deficits with other major exporters as well, including China.
“U.S.-bound exports came out really strong, particularly auto exports despite the fact that the U.S. auto market is viewed as not doing well,” said Ryohei Kasahara, an economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research.
“Overall, exports are expected to increase going forward, although we need to be careful about volatility in currency markets in the face of geopolitical risks related to North Korea,” Kasahara added.
With Asia, Japan’s trade surplus came to ¥469.02 billion. Exports increased 14.8 percent to ¥3.50 trillion while imports advanced 18.1 percent to ¥3.03 trillion.
Shipments to the European Union increased 8.3 percent to ¥721.07 billion and imports were up 3.1 percent to ¥688.18 billion, translating to a ¥32.89 billion trade surplus with the bloc.
The figures were measured on a customs-cleared basis.
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