July 20, 2024

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Weak yen pushes Japan’s exports to grow at fastest rate since Nov. 2022

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Japan’s exports surged 13.5% in May, faster than expected growth helped by a weak yen and strong demand in the U.S. and Asia.

Finance Ministry data reported Wednesday showed that the trade deficit totaled 1.22 trillion yen ($7.7 billion), down nearly 12% from 1.38 trillion yen a year earlier. Imports grew 9.5%, year-on-year, to nearly 9.5 trillion yen ($60 billion).

Exports totaled 8.3 trillion yen ($53 billion) and grew at the fastest since November 2022. Shipments to the United States were up nearly 24% and those to the rest of Asia rose more than 13%, led by double-digit growth in shipments of vehicles, electronics and machinery.

Trade with Europe mostly fell.

The value of Japan’s imports tends to grow when the Japanese yen loses value against the U.S. dollar and other major currencies. The dollar is trading at nearly 158 yen, up from 140-yen levels a year ago.

Japan is a resource-poor nation that imports almost all its oil, and higher imports of oil, gas and other fuels are a big factor behind the deficit in May, for the second month in a row. Fruit imports also gained in May.

But a large factor behind the increases in both exports and imports was rising prices overall, which inflated their value compared with a year earlier, Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said in a report.

That can be seen in the muted impact of trade on the economy, which contracted at a 1.8% pace in the first quarter of the year.

In fact, “most of the increase in trade values over the past year reflects rising prices due to the sharp weakening of the yen rather than any marked improvement in volumes,” it said.

Still, trade with China, Japan’s second-largest single export market after the United States, has been reviving as its economy slowly recovers from the shocks of a meltdown in its property sector and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shipments of machinery and manufacturing components as well as vehicles showed strong…

Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press

2024-06-19 03:21:35

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