December 18, 2017 / 12:50 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Japan export growth accelerates, underscores steady economic recovery

    * Nov exports +16.2 pct yr/yr vs forecast +14.6 pct
    * Imports +17.2 pct yr/yr vs forecast +18.0 pct
    * Trade balance +113.4 bln yen vs f'cast -54.9 bln yen
    * Exports a key driver of Japan's economic growth

 (Adds analyst's comment)
    By Tetsushi Kajimoto
    TOKYO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Japan's export growth accelerated
in November to mark a full year of annual gains, underscoring
the strength of external demand that has led the economy to its
second-longest run of postwar growth.  
    Export growth of 16.2 percent in November handily beat a
14.6 percent annual gain expected by economists in a Reuters
poll, accelerating from a 14.0 percent year-on-year increase in
the previous month, according to the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
    In volume terms, Japan's exports rose 5.5 percent in
November from a year ago, the 10th consecutive month of rises,
led by robust shipments to China and Asia, the data showed.
    The data backs the Bank of Japan's optimistic outlook for
the Japanese economy, the world's third largest. The central
bank holds a two-day policy setting meeting that ends on
Thursday.
    With inflation stubbornly low despite more than four years
of aggressive monetary stimulus, many analysts expect the
central bank to stand pat on policy at least for now.
    Economists expect brisk Asia-bound shipments of electronics
and solid capital investment in advanced economies will underpin
Japan's export performance in coming months.
    "The global economic outlook by IMF and OECD suggests the
world economy will remain resilient for the time being, which
will provide favourable export conditions," said Takeshi Minami,
chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. 
    "Still, geopolitical risks persist in the Middle East and
North Korea, while attention should be paid to China's economic
management and impacts from normalisation of monetary policy in
advanced economies."    
    The value of exports to China, Japan's largest trading
partner, rose 25.1 percent year-on-year in November to 1.38
trillion yen ($12.24 billion), the highest amount on record, led
by equipment to manufacture liquid crystal displays (LCD).
    Shipments to Asia, which account for more than half of
Japan's exports, grew 20.4 percent in the year to November to
3.89 trillion yen, the record amount.
    The gain was driven by China-bound shipments of LCD
manufacturing equipment, exports of steel to Thailand and hybrid
cars for South Korea. 
    Exports to the United States rose 13.0 percent in the year
to November, led by cars and excavators, following a 7.1 percent
gain in the previous month.
    Japan's trade surplus with the United States rose an annual
13.7 percent in November to 660 billion yen, a source of concern
as President Donald Trump seeks bilateral deals to fix trade
imbalances under his "America First" policy.
    Monday's data marked the fifth straight month of annual
growth in Japan's trade surplus with the United States.
    Imports rose 17.2 percent in the year to November, versus
the median estimate for a 18.0 percent annual increase, led by
cell phones from China and crude oil.
    The trade balance resulted in a surplus of 113.4 billion
yen, against the median estimate for a 54.9 billion yen
shortfall, marking the sixth straight surplus month.
    
    ($1 = 112.7300 yen)

 (Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Eric Meijer)
  
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