Japanese exports slowed down on Lunar New year holidays

Exports in Japan recorded the 15th consecutive month of gains in February, however, exports experienced a significant slowdown from the previous month due to stalled shipments during the Lunar New Year holidays.

Based on the data from the Ministry of Finance which was revealed on Monday, exports climbed 1.8 percent, well within the range of the 1.9 percent hike that was predicted by economists. It followed a re-assessed 12.3 percent increase in January.

In February from a year ago, Japan’s exports shed 2.1 percent in volume terms, marking the first drop in 13 months.

Analysts are expecting strong international demand for electronics and semiconductors which will likely underpin the gradual growth in exports. However, U.S. president Donald Trump’s import tariffs on aluminum and steel has raised concerns of a looming trade war.

Barclay Securities economist Yuichiro Nagai stated that the strong trend in overseas machinery orders and the high level of international business sentiment are good indicators for a strong outlook for exports.

In February, exports to China, which is the largest trading partner to Japan, shed 9.7 percent while shipments to other part of Asia, which includes over half of Japan’s exports, was down by 3.2 percent in the year to February.

U.S. bound exports were up 4.3 percent in the year to February, supported by hybrid cars. Automobile exports to the United States surged 12.3 percent.

The trade surplus of Japan with the United States has increased an annual 3.4 percent to 631 billion yen or $5.94 billion in February.

Japan’s all-inclusive imports jumped 16.5 percent in the year to February, on track with the median forecast of a 17.1 percent increase, supported by imports of garments from China and the climbing costs of crude oil and other liquefied natural gas.

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