Japan’s exports grow for a third month as trade deficit sinks to $2.5 billion

TOKYO — Japan’s exports rose 7.8% in February, as shipments continued to expand in cars and electrical machinery, according to government data released Thursday.

The nation’s trade deficit sank to 379 billion yen ($2.5 billion), marking the second straight month of a deficit.

Imports grew in food, medical products and computers, while declining in autos and power-generating machines. They inched up 0.5% from the previous year, totaling nearly 9 trillion yen ($60 billion).

The strength in exports come as good news, coming a day after the Bank of Japan raised its key interest rate for the first time in 17 years, no longer setting it at below zero. The central bank has promised to still keep lending easy as it gauges various signs for how growth holds up.

By region, Japan’s exports to North America, Europe and the Middle East rose last month.

The picture for imports was mixed, gaining from places like India, China and Brazil, while slipping from Australia and staying little changed in many areas.

Exports in February totaled 8.2 trillion yen ($55 billion), marking the third straight month of growth, according to the Finance Ministry’s preliminary report.

One positive recently is the solid rebound in tourism, which counts statistically as exports, with recent data showing that it’s at levels even higher than the years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan restricted entrance into the country during the pandemic.

Exports have remained a relative strong point even as Japan’s economy slows, hitting a record high of just over 100 trillion yen ($670 billion) in 2023. But energy import costs have ballooned since 2022 for resource-scant Japan, although that has gradually subsided.

Japan slipped in the global ranking of economic size, behind Germany in 2023, to become the world’s fourth-largest economy.


Yuri Kageyama is on X: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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