Japan: Trade balance turns to a surplus in September despite shrinking exports
Nominal yen-denominated merchandise exports fell 1.2% annually in September, contrasting the 6.6% increase logged in August and missing market expectations of a 2.1% increase. The decrease came on the back of falling exports to China and the U.S.— Japan’s first and second-largest export markets, respectively — as well as Europe. In addition, natural disasters in September, such as an earthquake in Hokkaido and the passage of Typhoon Jebi in the region of Osaka and Kyoto, disrupted trade activity in the month and likely impacted total shipments.
Meanwhile, import growth slowed markedly from 15.3% in August to 7.0% in September, undershooting market expectations of a 13.7% increase. The print reflected a broad-based slowdown in imports across most commodities, with petroleum recording notably slower growth.
The merchandise trade balance swung from JPY 0.4 trillion deficit in August to a JPY 0.1 trillion surplus in September (September 2017: JPY 0.7 trillion surplus). Meanwhile, the 12-month trailing trade surplus fell from JPY 1.3 trillion in August to JPY 0.8 trillion in September, marking the lowest reading in over two years.