• Kyodo

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Japan’s exports of goods in February fell 4.5% from a year earlier, marking the first decline in three months, as U.S. demand for items such as cars remained sluggish amid the prolonged coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Wednesday.

Exports dropped to ¥6.04 trillion with a 14.0% plunge in shipments to the United States and a 3.3% decrease in those to the European Union, which offset a 3.4% growth in shipments to China, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

By item, exports fell 12.9% for cars, 40.7% for mineral fuels such as diesel oil, and 27.5% for ships.

Exports to the United States fell for the fourth straight month, with the pace of decline accelerating from 4.8% in January.

Japan’s imports from across the globe soared 11.8% to ¥5.82 trillion in February, marking the first rise in 22 months, as imports from China sharply recovered from a year earlier when the world’s second-largest economy was hit hard by the virus.

Imports from China more than doubled in the reporting month compared with February last year, when they logged a 47.0% year-on-year decrease.

China was the first major economy severely impacted by the virus outbreak, which was detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 and forced manufacturers at the time to halt domestic production.

Japan’s trade balance recorded a surplus of ¥217.38 billion in February, down 80.5% from a year ago but swinging into the black from a ¥325.38 billion deficit in the previous month.

The recovery of Japan’s economy from the initial impact of the pandemic has been driven by strong exports, which led the world’s third-largest economy to post annualized real growth of 11.7% in the October-December period from the previous quarter.

All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.

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