© Reuters. A cargo ship and containers are seen at an industrial port in Tokyo, Japan, February 15, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/ File Photo
By Tetsushi Kajimoto
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s exports hit a record level in September, climbing for the first time in three months as automakers revved up shipments to the U.S. and Europe, unshackled from a global chip shortage that had held them back a year earlier.
Export growth was 4.3%, outperforming economists’ expectations of a 3.1% increase and a 0.8% fall in August. The value of shipments clocked in at 9.2 trillion yen ($61 billion), a 2% increase over the previous record logged in October last year.
“Exports turned out solid overall despite concerns about the global economic slowdown,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.
At the same time, imports slumped a somewhat larger-than-expected 16.3% as the base-line effects of higher energy bills resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have run their course.
With both the growth in exports and the drop in imports exceeding predictions, Japan booked its first trade surplus in three months of 62.4 billion yen, confounding expectations for a 425 billion yen deficit.
However, the worsening conflict in the Middle East and slower growth in China cloud the outlook for Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy.
“You cannot be optimistic given that elevated interest rates are cooling demand in the West and considering the impact of China’s real-estate woes on its economy,” Minami said.
By destination, U.S.-bound exports surged 13%, led by hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, engines as well as mining and construction machinery.
Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, fell 6.2% for their 10th straight month of decline, dragged down by weaker demand for chips, electronic parts and food.
Overall, car shipments accounted for 18% of exports, offsetting declines in exports of chip-related products.
China-bound food exports, including fish, tumbled 58% due to its ban on Japanese food imports after Tokyo decided to release water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
($1 = 149.7500 yen)