Japan’s exports grew 37.0% from a year earlier in July, keeping up their sharp rebound from the initial blow of the COVID-19 pandemic amid a solid global economic recovery, government data showed Wednesday.

Rising for the fifth month in a row, exports totaled ¥7.36 trillion ($67 billion), lifted by robust shipments of cars and auto parts to the United States as well as semiconductors and chip-making equipment to Asian nations including China, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The year-on-year increase topped 30% for the fourth straight month, following a 48.6% expansion in June, partly in reaction to a 19.2% drop in July last year when the pandemic dampened global demand for Japanese-made products such as cars.

The July exports recovered to levels seen before the pandemic, up 10.7% from ¥6.64 trillion in July 2019, largely helped by robust demand for chip-making devices amid a global shortage of semiconductors.

“I have the impression that Japan’s exports have been recovering firmly,” said Yuichi Kodama, chief economist at the Meiji Yasuda Research Institute, citing growth in shipments to China and the U.S.

But he also warned that exports to China and Southeast Asian nations may slow down, affected by a resurgence of the virus driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

By product, exports of automobiles and car parts in July were up 43.5% and 60.1% from a year earlier, respectively, while those of steel jumped 88.3%.

Overall imports soared 28.5% to ¥6.92 trillion, up for the sixth consecutive month, on rising prices for crude oil imports from the United Arab Emirates and other countries along with brisk purchases of iron ore mainly from Australia.

The goods trade surplus stood at ¥441.02 billion, ensuring black ink for the second successive month and turning positive from the previous year’s ¥14.76 billion deficit.

Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, advanced 18.9% to ¥1.58 trillion for the 13th straight month of growth. Imports from the neighboring country gained 12.4% to ¥1.64 trillion.

With the U.S., Japanese exports surged 26.8% to ¥1.38 trillion, up for the fifth successive month. Imports from the world’s largest economy grew 24.4% to ¥724.03 billion.

Exports to Asia including China rose 32.5% to ¥4.21 trillion, while imports from the region grew 19.1% to ¥3.39 trillion.

Shipments to the European Union increased 46.1% to ¥639.96 billion, with imports from the bloc expanding 13.9% to ¥742.42 billion.

All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.

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