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Japan Trade Balance January 2021

Japan: Exports grow at a quicker pace in January

Yen-denominated merchandise exports jumped 6.4% year-on-year in January, hot on the heels of December’s 2.0% rise. January’s reading marked the largest increase since October 2018. Meanwhile, imports plunged 9.5% over the same month last year in January (December: -11.6% yoy), marking the best result since April 2020.

As a result, the merchandise trade balance dropped to a JPY 0.3 trillion deficit in January from a JPY 0.7 trillion surplus in December (January 2020: JPY 1.3 trillion deficit). Lastly, the trend improved, with the 12-month trailing merchandise trade balance recording a JPY 1.7 trillion surplus in January, compared to the JPY 0.7 trillion surplus in December.

Regarding the outlook for exports, analysts at Nomura commented:

“While real exports increased sharply m-m in January, we think this figure was inflated by rush demand ahead of the Lunar New Year. We expect a dropoff in exports to Asia in February. […] When also taking into account that the shortage in semiconductors is holding down automobile production and that goods exports have yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, we expect to see a clear q-q slowdown in real exports in Jan-Mar 2021.”

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