TOKYO • 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% from a year earlier (forecast +14.7%), the biggest gain since August.
Imports increased 17.2% (forecast +18%).
The trade surplus was ¥113.4 billion (RM4.08 billion).
The forecast was for a deficit of ¥40 billion.
Export volumes rose 5.5% from a year earlier, accelerating from October.
A yearlong recovery in exports has kicked Japan into higher gear, fuelling 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 labour shortage intensifies, prompting the government to plan to offer tax benefits to encourage higher pay.
“We can expect exports will remain strong enough to lead Japan’s economy, with solid demand from US and China,” said Norio Miyagawa, a senior economist at Mizuho Securities Co, who cited global demand for semiconductors and information technology-related goods.
“Without any sign of weakening in exports, Japan’s economy will probably keep recovering gradually,” Miyagawa said.
“The Bank of Japan 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.
Japan’s adjusted trade balance showed a surplus of ¥364.1 billion (forecast ¥265 billion).
Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, rose 25.1% from a year earlier.
Those to the US rose 13%.
Shipments to the European Union rose 13.3%.
Exports of semiconductor machinery rose almost 55%.