Japan’s Export Recovery Stretches to 12th Month in November

Updated on
  • Shipments to China surge by 25 percent from a year earlier
  • Rise in volume of 5.5 percent confirms strong global demand

Japan’s exports grew for a 12th straight month in November, topping economists’ expectations, as external demand continued to fuel the nation’s longest stretch of economic growth since the 1990s.

  • The value of exports rose 16.2 percent from a year earlier (forecast +14.7 percent), the biggest gain since August.
  • Imports increased 17.2 percent (forecast +18 percent).
  • The trade surplus was 113.4 billion yen ($1 billion). The forecast was for a deficit of 40 billion yen.
  • Export volumes rose 5.5 percent from a year earlier, accelerating from October.

Key Takeaways

A yearlong recovery in exports has kicked Japan into higher gear, fueling record profits and rising capital spending during the longest economic expansion since the mid-1990s. Confidence among the nation’s large manufacturers has reached the highest level in a decade, while sentiment is rising even among smaller companies. The wage growth needed to drive a self-sustaining recovery remains elusive, though, even as the labor shortage intensifies, prompting the government to plan to offer tax benefits to encourage higher pay.

Economists’ Views

  • "We can expect exports will remain strong enough to lead Japan’s economy, with solid demand from U.S. and China," said Norio Miyagawa, a senior economist at Mizuho Securities Co., who cited global demand for semiconductors and IT-related goods.
  • "Without any sign of weakening in exports, Japan’s economy will probably keep recovering gradually," Miyagawa said. "The BOJ must be gaining confidence in the economy with today’s export data."
  • The November data confirm the strength of global demand after signs of softening in October, said Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Corp. in Tokyo. "The general trend hasn’t shifted a great deal from last month, but the positive aspects are clearer with this month’s data,” he said.

Other Details

  • Japan’s adjusted trade balance showed a surplus of 364.1 billion yen (forecast 265 billion yen).
  • Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, rose 25.1 percent from a year earlier.
  • Those to the U.S. rose 13 percent.
  • Shipments to the EU rose 13.3 percent.
  • Exports of semiconductor machinery rose almost 55 percent.

— With assistance by Toru Fujioka, and Yuko Takeo

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