TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's exports fell less than expected in June in a tentative sign that overseas demand could be recovering from persistent weakness that set in last year.
The 7.4 pe rcent annual decline in exports in June was less than the median estimate for a 11.6 per cent annual decline seen in a Reuters poll of economists, although it was the ninth consecutive monthly fall.
In volume terms, exports rose 2.9 per cent in June from the same period a year earlier, the first increase in four months.
The trade balance hit a surplus of 692.8 billion yen (S$21.64 billion) versus a 494.8 billion yen surplus seen in the poll.
A slowing decline in exports could ease concerns for Japan's policymakers as they try to revive growth with stimulus spending on infrastructure after their structural reform plans failed to deliver hoped-for results.
Exports fell in June on declines in shipments of cars and steel, the data showed.
Exports to China - Japan's largest trading partner - fell an annual 10.0 per cent in June, less than a 14.9 per cent annual decline in the previous month.
US-bound shipments fell 6.5 per cent year on year, considerably less than the 10.7 percent annual decline of the previous month.
Imports were down 18.8 per cent on year versus a forecast -19.7 per cent.
The yen has risen around 13 per cent versus the US dollar so far this year, and some Japanese policymakers are worried about further gains that would severely erode exporters'earnings and increase deflationary pressure by lowering import prices.
The government is crafting a massive spending package worth about 20 trillion yen, three government sources told Reuters last week.
The BOJ is expected to ease monetary policy at a meeting ending on July 29, a Reuters poll of economists found, to boost anaemic inflation.