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Japan Posts Trade Deficit

Japan Posts Trade DeficitJapan Posts Trade Deficit

Japan posted a trade deficit in April following a single-month’s surplus in March, and economists said shortfalls were likely to persist given the weakness of the yen.

The 53.4 billion yen ($439.6 million) deficit in April for the world’s third-biggest economy compared with a 227.4 billion yen surplus in March, the first in several years. Reuters reported.

But thanks to lower oil and gas prices, the deficit fell more than forecast, nearly 94 percent from April 2014, when the deficit was 825.5 billion yen, the Finance Ministry reported Monday.

The Japanese yen, now trading around 121.60 to the US dollar, is at its lowest level in price-adjusted terms since January 1973, according to Richard Katz of The Oriental Economist Report.

That means imports are costing Japan more in relative terms than in past decades. Oil prices appear to have bottomed out, auguring further deficits, economists say.

 Stuck in Red

“Overall, therefore, the trade balance will likely remain in the red in coming months,” said Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics.

The overall trade balance slipped into deficit in 2011 as oil and gas imports surged following the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, which led to closure of all of the country’s reactors for safety checks.

Japan’s trade deficit hit a record early last year as consumers stepped up purchases to beat a tax hike on April 1, 2014, which was followed by a brief recession.

Costs for importing oil and gas and a shift of Japanese manufacturing to overseas markets, plus persistent weakness in key export markets, have so far precluded an export-led recovery.

A surge in visits by foreign tourists is helping, though demand overseas is sluggish, and inventories are rising due to higher imports late last year, said Masamichi Adachi, of JPMorgan.

“As a result, we think that both exports and imports will slow or even decline this quarter,” he said.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Monday that year-on-year changes in the overall consumer price index are likely to be around zero for the time being.

Consumer prices are likely to start rising again once the impact from a decline in oil prices starts to fade, Kuroda said at the upper house budget audit committee.

 Exports Rise

In April, exports rose 8 percent year-on-year to 6.55 trillion yen ($53.9 billion) while imports dropped 4.2 percent to 6.6 trillion yen ($54.3 billion).

Japan’s exports to the US, Japan’s biggest market, rose 21 percent from a year earlier to 1.36 trillion yen ($11.2 billion) while imports from the US rose 24 percent, to 714.1 billion yen ($5.9 billion).

Vehicle and parts exports surged 23 percent, machinery exports climbed 19 percent and those of electrical machinery rose 17 percent, thanks to stronger growth in the US and demand in other regions of Asia.

Japan’s exports to China edged up 2.4 percent, to 1.21 trillion yen ($9.95 billion), a slower pace than usual due to waning growth in Asia’s biggest economy. Exports to all of Asia rose 6 percent, however, on rising shipments to Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea.

A weaker yen makes Japanese goods more competitive overseas and improves repatriated revenues.

 

Financialtribune.com