World Economy

Japan Reports $23 Billion Trade Surplus in 2017

Shipments of cars and semiconductor-related  equipment have surged.Shipments of cars and semiconductor-related  equipment have surged.

Japan posted a goods trade surplus of 2.46 trillion yen ($23 billion) in fiscal 2017 as strong overseas demand lifted the country’s exports to the second-highest level on record, the finance ministry said Wednesday.

The surplus, however, shrank 38.2% from a year ago due to a surge in energy imports such as crude oil, liquefied natural gas and coal. Japan stayed in the black for the second straight year, Nikkei reported.

Exports gained 10.8% to 79.22 trillion yen, up for the first time in three years, as shipments of cars and semiconductor-related equipment surged. Imports rose 13.6% to 76.77 trillion yen, the first gain in four years.

Japan’s trade surplus expanded 5.7% to 7 trillion yen with the United States, a reading that could rattle US President Donald Trump who is seeking to reduce his country’s large trade deficits.

In fiscal 2017 that ended March, US-bound exports gained 7.5% to 15.18 trillion yen and imports rose 9.1% to 8.18 trillion yen, the preliminary data showed.

Japan had a trade deficit of 3.36 trillion yen with China, down 20.3% after imports were up 8.8% to 18.55 trillion yen while exports jumped 18.3% to a record-high 15.19 trillion yen.

Japan’s trade surplus with the rest of Asia, which includes China, expanded 19.5% to 5.86 trillion yen. The fourth straight year of surplus was reflected in a 13.1% increase in exports to 43.45 trillion yen, the largest on record, and a 12.2% rise in imports to 37.59 trillion yen.

A trade deficit of 182.72 billion yen was registered with the European Union, as imports from the economic bloc hit 9.04 trillion yen, the ministry data showed.

For March alone, Japan had a goods trade surplus of 797.3 billion yen. The figures were measured on a customs-cleared basis.

Japan is in the middle of its longest growth stretch in decades, and while that’s set to continue this year, 2019 looks like a crunch year for the world’s third-largest economy.

The nation’s growth will slow then, according to an International Monetary Fund forecast, just as the government raises the sales tax. That is also when the central bank has forecast that it will be approaching its inflation target, which means it might start winding down stimulus.

The last time the tax was raised, it caused a recession and knocked 9 trillion yen ($86 billion) off of output. That result, and a possible reduction in monetary stimulus, will be on the minds of policy makers, especially if the economy is already slowing. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has postponed the sales-tax increase twice before.

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