Japan: Japan records first trade surplus in five months
March 22, 2012
In February, exports fell 2.7% over the same month last year, which represented an improvement compared to the 9.2% contraction observed in January (previously reported: +9.3% year-on-year) and the 6.5% drop expected by market analysts. On the other hand, imports grew 9.2% (January: +9.5% yoy), coming in above the 8.2% rise anticipated by the market. The trade deficit swung from a shortfall of JPY 1.5 trillion in January (USD 19.2 billion) to a surplus of JPY 32.9 billion in February (USD 420 million), marking the first surplus in five months. The improvement in exports was broad-based, as most of the major categories posted better readings than in the previous month, particularly transport equipment. Shipments to the United States improved noticeably, while exports to China, Japan's largest export market, contracted 13.9%. Meanwhile, purchases of fossil fuels, which account for around a third of total imports, remained buoyant due to the need to generate electric power, as all but two of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors have gone offline since the March earthquake.