Japanese trade data for December has come in mixed, with strong growth in exports offset by a steeper decline in imports.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Finance, exports grew by 5.4% in the 12 months to December, above the 1.2% increase expected by economists and 0.4% contraction reported in the year to November.
It was the first time in 15 months that the value of exports rose from year earlier, and was the fastest annual increase seen since July 2015.
While exports continued to recover, fitting with recent strength seen in new export orders in the nation’s manufacturing PMI report, it was a different story for imports.
They continued to contract on an annualised basis, although the pace was significantly slower than that reported in November.
From a year earlier, they fell by 2.6%, an improvement on the 8.8% decline reported previously but below economist expectations for a smaller contraction of 0.8%.
Largely as a result of the acceleration in exports seen last month, the nation’s trade surplus swelled to 641.4 billion yen, the largest surplus reported since June 2016.
Economists had expected a surplus of 270 billion yen, an increase on the 152.5 billion yen surplus seen in November.