Japan logged a goods trade surplus of 496.2 billion yen (4.46 billion U.S. dollars) in October, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report on Monday.
According to the ministry, exports declined 10.3 percent compared to the same time a year earlier in the reporting period, with median market expectations projecting an 8.5 percent fall, with the decline coming on the heels of a 6.9 percent decline in September.
Imports, meanwhile, retreated 16.5 percent on a customs-cleared basis, ahead of median analysts' expectations for a 16.6 percent retreat.
It is the second-successive month that Japan's balance sheet has posted a trade surplus, as the value of imports continue to decline at a quicker rate than those of exports, with shipments, notably, dropping in the recording period, having marked a retreat every month in the year past.
This, economists have said, is owing to a comparatively high yen and both slumping domestic demand and overall economic malaise weighing on the balance sheet and impedeing Japan despite numerous measures by the central bank and government to stimulate expenditure and attempts to kickstart new socio-economic growth drivers.
"Exports were down due to drops in autos, steel and communications equipment," Yuichiro Nagai and Kyohei Morita of Barclays Securities Japan were quoted as saying prior to the release of the latest data set.
While Tsutomu Saito, an economist at Daiwa Institute of Research, suggested that "Considering seasonal factors, it's a pretty high trade surplus," adding, "Energy prices might pick up, but to compensate import volume is down, and export volume is increasing modestly."
In general market insiders believe that in the short-term the "Trump effect" as refers to the potential near-term upticks based on U.S. stimulus and growth potential when the new leadership in the U.S. takes over, may work favorably for Japan's balance sheet, although the consensus remains that the mid-to-long-term outlooks remain hazy.
The latest trade data set underscores a fragile economic expansion in Japan in the third-quarter, as exports rallied and imports declined, which emphasizes the massive interdependence of the nation's movement of goods in and out of the country, particularly the former, against a backdrop of sluggish global and domestic demand.
One positive, however, the finance ministry said Monday, was the fact that net shipments, which subtracts imports from exports, added 0.5 percentage point to GDP growth in the last quarter.
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