TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's exports rose for an eighth straight month in July on robust shipments to the United States and a boost from a weak yen, a sign overseas demand rebounded from a lull in the previous quarter to underpin a steady economic recovery.
The data underscores the Bank of Japan's view that the world's third-largest economy is showing increasing signs of strength as private consumption adds momentum to an export-led recovery.
Imports rose for the seventh straight month on brisk demand for personal computers and digital cameras from China, highlighting the strength of domestic consumption that served as a key driver of Japan's economic growth in the second quarter.
"Exports aren't particularly strong in volume terms but will gradually recover ahead. The import figures, on the other hand, underscore the strength of domestic demand," said Mr Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. "Domestic demand is gaining momentum and will likely drive Japan's economic recovery." Exports to the US rose by 11.5 per cent in July from a year earlier to mark the sixth straight month of gains, while those to Asia were up 14.8 per cent, the data showed.
The trade surplus with the US rose by 9.1 per cent to 647 billion yen (S$8.03 billion).
Japan's trade surplus has been a target of criticism by US President Donald Trump's administration, which has called for cutting the US trade deficit under his protectionist "America First" policies.
Total exports increased 13.4 per cent in July from a year earlier, Ministry of Finance data showed on Thursday (Aug 17), roughly in line with a median market forecast for a 13.6 per cent gain.
The rise, which followed a 9.7 per cent increase in June, was driven by solid car shipments to the US and demand from China for electrical equipment, the data showed.
But the gain in exports was more modest in volume terms at 2.6 per cent, suggesting the value of exports was inflated by the yen's declines during the month.
Total imports were up 16.3 per cent in July from a year earlier, roughly in line with a median market forecast for a 17 per cent gain. It followed a 15.5 per cent rise in June.
Shipments to China rose 17.6 per cent, marking a ninth straight month of increase.
Japan's economy expanded at the fastest pace in more than two years in the second quarter as consumer and company spending picked up, highlighting a long-awaited bounce in domestic demand.
Negative external demand, or exports minus imports, shaved off some growth in the quarter as shipments of information-technology goods to Asia slowed, though many analysts expect exports to remain firm in coming quarters.