Japan Exports Surge Most Since 2010 in Boost for Abe: Economy

Japan’s exports rose more than forecast in May as a weaker yen boosted the value of overseas sales, underscoring the profit boon for manufacturers from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reflation campaign.

The value of shipments abroad increased 10 percent in May from a year earlier, the most since 2010 and exceeding the 6.4 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists, a Finance Ministry report showed in Tokyo. At the same time, export volume dropped 4.8 percent.

Today’s data reflect an almost 12 percent slide in the yen against the dollar in the past six months that stoked criticism from trade partners including South Korea that Japan’s monetary stimulus is distorting commerce. The key for Abe is that exporters from Nintendo Co. to Mazda Motor Corp. use profit gains to boost wages and investment at home.

“The yen’s exchange rate, even though it has been adjusted a bit recently, is still weaker than last year’s level and giving a lot of impetus for Japan’s export drive,” said Long Hanhua Wang, an economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in Tokyo. “The volume of exports is still unimpressive as the economic growth of China is stagnating and Europe’s expansion remains weak.”

The nation’s 11th straight monthly trade deficit was 993.9 billion yen ($10.4 billion) as imports gained 10 percent, today’s report showed. The shortfall was the third largest on record, and the largest ever in May. The yen’s decline boosted the costs of imports, while nuclear-plant shutdowns added to energy demand.

The yen has fallen against 15 of 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg News in the past six months, with the currency trading at 95.39 per dollar as of 11:37 a.m. in Tokyo. The Topix index rose 1.2 percent in morning trading, up 28 percent this year even after tumbling from a May 22 high.

U.S. Shipments

Shipments to the U.S. rose the most in a year, jumping 16 percent by value from a year earlier as motor vehicle exports there climbed 13 percent. Exports to China gained 8.3 percent, the most since February 2011. Sales to the European Union fell 4.9 percent, dropping for a 20th month.

Export volume fell 4.8 percent in May from a year earlier, the 12th consecutive monthly decline, and import volumes dropped 2.4 percent.

Japan’s economy grew an annualized 4.1 percent in the first quarter of this year and is forecast to expand 2.9 percent in the three months ending June 30, according to the median of economist’s forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey.

Elsewhere in Asia today, Malaysia is forecast to report May consumer prices rose at the same pace as in the previous month. In Europe, Sweden will see releases on consumer confidence and the unemployment rate. The U.S. Federal Reserve concludes a two-day meeting on monetary policy in Washington, with Chairman Ben S. Bernanke set to give a press briefing.