Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Japan Returns to Trade Surplus in June

Japanese trade returned to surplus in June, with both imports and exports continuing the strong growth they have had all year.

Highlights

  • Exports rose 9.7 percent from a year earlier (estimate 9.5 percent).
  • Imports increased 15.5 percent (estimate 14.4 percent).
  • The trade surplus was 439.9 billion yen ($3.9 billion) (estimate +488 billion yen).

Key Takeaways

The data come hours before the Bank of Japan is expected to announce that it’s keeping monetary policy unchanged. The nation’s modest economic recovery reflected in the trade data and the move to tighter policy by other major central banks is putting pressure on policy makers in Japan to be clearer about their plans to normalize monetary policy. 

Some lawmakers are starting to press the BOJ to communicate more openly about its future exit strategy, and the BOJ is re-calibrating its communications on the subject while firmly maintaining that such a policy change won’t happen anytime soon, according to people with knowledge of discussions at the central bank.

Economist Views

  • Today’s data indicate that exports will continue to be firm in the third quarter, according to Masamichi Adachi, a senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a former BOJ official. "We think demand in Asia will continue to be strong, which is a stabilizing factor for the economy."
  • "Toward year-end, export growth will likely slow," said Masaki Kuwahara, senior economist at Nomura Securities Co. in Tokyo. "Japan’s growth may slow toward year end."

Other Details

  • Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, increased 19.5 percent from a year earlier.
  • Shipments to the U.S. rose or 7.1 percent.
  • Those to the EU climbed 9.6 percent.

— With assistance by Tomoko Sato, Yoshiaki Nohara, and Keiko Ujikane

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