TOKYO • Japan's December exports rose for the first time in 15 months on strong sales of electronics and car parts, a positive sign for the export-reliant economy even as US protectionism threatens to hurt trade across the region.
Ministry of Finance data out yesterday shows exports rose 5.4 per cent year-on-year last month.
It followed an annual 0.4 per cent decline in November.
The volume of shipments jumped 8.4 per cent from a year earlier, up for a second straight month, underlining a pick-up in demand.
The data should be welcome news for the Bank of Japan, which is seen keeping an upbeat view on the world's third-largest economy at a policy review next week on prospects of improving global growth.
Rise in Japan's exports year-on-year in December, according to the Ministry of Finance data.
Fall in imports year-on-year in December.
But worries about protectionism under US President Donald Trump have raised uncertainty over the outlook as he withdrew the country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on Monday, distancing the US from its Asian allies.
"Global demand is firming up as emerging markets in Asia are catching up with a recovery in advanced economies," said Mr Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.
"If debate on protectionism leads to an unwelcome rise in the yen, that would dampen the momentum towards a pick-up in Japan's exports though."
For the whole of last year, Japan posted a trade surplus of 6.8 trillion yen (S$85 billion) with the US, down 4.6 per cent from 2015, with US-bound car shipments rising for a second straight year.
Last month, the value of exports to the US, Japan's second largest trading partner, rose 1.3 per cent year-on-year, the first increase in 10 months.
Exports to China, Japan's largest trading partner, were up 12.5 per cent last month to a record 1.3 trillion yen, helped by shipments of car parts and electronics gear.
Imports fell 2.6 per cent year-on- year last month, leading to a trade surplus of 641.4 billion yen - the fourth straight month of surpluses.