The global economy is looking OK, based on Japan's latest trade report


Japanese export and import growth slowed in April compared to a month earlier, but both remained firmly in positive territory.

A good sign for the broader global economy given the sheer size of the nation’s trade-exposed sectors.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Finance, the value of exports grew by 7.5% compared to a year earlier, down on the 12% increase reported in March and expectations for a moderation to 7.8%.

The government said that exports to China — its largest trade partner — rose by 14.8% year-on-year, boosted by shipments of optical equipment, auto parts and steel.

It was the sixth month that a positive year-on-year rate was recorded.

Exports to the broader Asian region grew by 12.2% year-on-year, while those to the United States increased by a smaller 2.6%.

On the other side of the trade ledger, the value of imports grew by 15.1% from April 2016, again below the 15.8% increase of March but marginally ahead of forecasts that were looking for a deceleration to 14.8%.

Higher energy costs contributed the strength in the annual growth figure.

With growth in exports outpaced by a lift in imports, the nation’s trade surplus narrowed to 481.7 billion yen. That was down on the 614.7 billion surplus reported in March and expectations for a narrowing to 520.7 billion yen.

In the 12 months to April, the Japanese yen weakened 4.85% against the US dollar, and was largely unchanged against the Chinese yuan.

That weakness, along with a broader improvement in global economic conditions, goes someway to explaining the positive year-on-year growth rates for import and export values.

Indeed, underlining that it’s not just a currency story, the government said that export volumes increased by 4.1% from the levels of a year earlier.

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