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Japan’s Export-Champ Days Are Left Behind, Chart Shows

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Japan’s exports stagnated even as Germany, South Korea and the U.S. saw their shipments surpass levels registered from the 2008 credit crisis, showing how a cheaper yen hasn’t stopped the nation’s manufacturers from moving abroad.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows the value of Japan’s exports is 23 percent below a March 2008 peak, even as those of South Korea, the U.S. and Germany have grown. The yen has lost 16 percent in value against the dollar since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012. That hasn’t been enough to spur growth in outbound shipments.

Japan’s government and central bank have blamed weak overseas demand, especially in emerging markets, for export sluggishness. This weakness is negative for an economy that suffered a blow to domestic demand from an April sales-tax increase.

“Japan is being left behind in the export recovery mainly because Japanese companies accelerated the shift of production abroad when the yen appreciated after the Lehman shock,” said Toru Suehiro, a market economist at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The loss of global market presence by Japan’s companies, especially electronic appliance makers, is also a factor.”

The impact of the move overseas by Japanese companies is striking in the U.S. automobile market, said Suehiro. U.S. sales for Japanese automakers in the six months through June rose 6.2 percent from a year earlier to 3.04 million, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Auto exports from Japan to the U.S. for the same period were down 8.5 percent, according to finance ministry data.

Honda Motor Co. became a net exporter from the U.S. last year, shipping more vehicles out of that country than it imported from Japan, and both Honda and Toyota Motor Corp. set production records at their North American assembly plants in 2013.

Japan’s motor-vehicle exports to the U.S. declined 17 percent from 2008 through 2013, with total automobile output in Japan dropping 17 percent, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected show the dateline as today.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Masaaki Iwamoto in Tokyo at miwamoto4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brett Miller at bmiller30@bloomberg.net James Mayger, Aaron Clark

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