TOKYO • Japan's exports rose in April to mark its fifth straight month of gains, as shipments of semiconductors and steel expanded, signalling that more robust overseas demand could underpin a steady economic recovery.
Exports rose 7.5 per cent in April from a year ago, below the median estimate of 7.8 per cent annual growth, Japan's Finance Ministry data showed yesterday. It followed a 12 per cent rise in March.
The data also showed that Japan's trade surplus with the United States had narrowed.
Exports to the US increased 2.6 per cent in April from a year ago, gaining for the third straight month due to larger shipments of cars and auto parts.
But Japan's trade surplus with the US fell 4.2 per cent in April from a year ago to 586.7 billion yen (S$7.31 billion).
Japan's exports are expected to continue rising as global economic growth gains momentum, but concerns about US President Donald Trump's pledges to adopt protectionist trade policies cloud the outlook for export-reliant Japan.
"Japan's exports will continue growing, and imports will probably also rise as domestic production picks up," said Mr Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities.
Rise in exports in April, from a year ago.
Rise in exports to Asia in April, from a year ago.
The drop in Japan's trade surplus with the US, however, could take some pressure off Japan as it makes it more difficult for Mr Trump to justify criticising Japan for its trade practices.
Japan's economy grew in the first quarter at the fastest rate in a year to mark the longest period of expansion in a decade, thanks to solid exports and a helpful boost from private consumption.
In terms of volume, exports rose 4.1 per cent in April from a year ago, the third consecutive month of gains, another sign of overseas demand picking up. Exports to China rose 14.8 per cent year on year in April, the sixth straight month of gains, boosted by shipments of optical equipment, auto parts and steel.
Japan's exports to Asia rose 12.2 per cent year on year in April, also posting the sixth straight month of gains on increased shipments of semiconductors.
Imports surged 15.1 per cent versus the median estimate for a 14.8 per cent increase, rising for the fourth straight month on rising energy costs.
The overall trade balance came to a surplus of 481.7 billion yen, versus the median estimate for a 521 billion yen surplus.