Japan's exports fall for 12th month

Workers at a plant in Utsunomiya, some 100km north of Tokyo, which assembles TV sets for Panasonic. Japan's exports fell 6.9 per cent last month from a year earlier, following a 9.6 per cent decline in August.
Workers at a plant in Utsunomiya, some 100km north of Tokyo, which assembles TV sets for Panasonic. Japan's exports fell 6.9 per cent last month from a year earlier, following a 9.6 per cent decline in August.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Value of exports hurt by yen's gains but volume rose 4.7% in the year to last month

TOKYO • Japan's exports fell for a 12th straight month in September from a year earlier, official data showed, as the yen's gains undermined export prices, but rising shipment volumes pointed to a tentative pick-up in global demand.

Ministry of Finance data issued yesterday showed Japan's exports fell 6.9 per cent last month from a year earlier, following a 9.6 per cent decline in August, dragged down by United States-bound shipments of cars, China-bound shipments of electronic parts and exports of steel.

The result is a little less gloomy than the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists for a 10.4 per cent fall as the yen's 16 per cent gains versus the US dollar from a year earlier hurt the value of exports.

In terms of volume, exports rose 4.7 per cent in the year to last month, the fastest gain in nearly two years and rising for a second straight month, the data showed.

"It's a positive sign that export volume grew after having been more or less flat until recently," said Mizuho Research Institute senior economist Hidenobu Tokuda.

GOOD INDICATOR

It's a positive sign that export volume grew after having been more or less flat until recently.

SENIOR ECONOMIST HIDENOBU TOKUDA, from Mizuho Research Institute.

Analysts say net exports probably contributed to Japan's July to September gross domestic product expansion, reflecting declines in imports, although weak overseas demand shaved 0.3 percentage point off second-quarter growth.

Asian demand for iPhone-related electronic parts and car sales in Europe recovering from a slump caused by the euro zone debt crisis helped increase Japanese export volumes.

While these possibly temporary factors may help boost sales in the short run, the Japanese export engine would still lack strength given lacklustre capital spending around the world, Mr Tokuda said.

In a further positive sign, Japanese manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in nine months as new orders rose, with the Flash Markit/Nikkei Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rising to a seasonally adjusted 51.7 this month.

New data will be closely scrutinised by the Bank of Japan at its Oct 31-Nov 1 policy meeting, where it issues new economic and price forecasts. The central bank is expected to hold off from expanding stimulus after having just revamped its policy framework last month, sources say.

By destination, the MOF data showed the value of exports to China - Japan's largest trading partner - fell 10.6 per cent last month from a year earlier, marking the seventh straight month of annual declines.

Shipments to Asia, which account for more than half of Japanese exports, fell 8.4 per cent, posting the 13th straight month of falls.

US-bound exports fell 8.7 per cent, posting a seventh straight declining month, while exports to the European Union rose 0.7 per cent, the first increase in five months.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Japan's exports fall for 12th month'. Print Edition | Subscribe