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Japan Jan export growth points to continued economic recovery

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Japan's exports grew in January for a 14th straight month led by brisk shipments of China-bound hybrid cars and electronics parts, a sign solid global demand for Japanese goods continued to underpin growth in the world's third largest economy.

[TOKYO] Japan's exports grew in January for a 14th straight month led by brisk shipments of China-bound hybrid cars and electronics parts, a sign solid global demand for Japanese goods continued to underpin growth in the world's third largest economy.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed on Monday that exports grew 12.2 per cent in January from a year earlier, following a 9.3 per cent year-on-year gain in the previous month. The result handily beat a 10.3 per cent increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

Economists expect exports will continue to expand in the coming months, led by demand for the semiconductor-related products that boosted exports in 2017.

Analysts are also wary about a rising yen as well as the US stance towards protectionism ahead of the mid-term elections later this year, and potential effects on Japan's exports of cars and other products.

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A strong yen erodes profits at Japanese manufacturers and could hurt the otherwise buoyant economy, which posted an eighth straight quarter of growth in October-December.

In a sign the yen's strength has undermined business sentiment, confidence among Japanese manufacturers worsened significantly in February from January's strong reading, the Reuters Tankan poll showed on Monday.

Monday's trade data showed exports to China, Japan's biggest trading partner, jumped 30.8 per cent year-on-year in January led by semiconductor production equipment, car engines and hybrid cars.

Shipments to Asia as a whole, which account for more than half of Japan's exports, grew 16.0 per cent in the year to January.

US-bound shipments rose 1.2 per cent in the year to January, led by steel, batteries and medicines, while car shipments declined 3.9 per cent.

The small rise in US-bound exports followed a 3.0 per cent gain in the previous month.

Japan's trade surplus with the United States fell an annual 12.3 per cent in January to 349.6 billion yen, a second declining month.

Overall imports rose 7.9 per cent in the year to January, versus the median estimate of an 8.3 per cent increase.

The trade balance came to a deficit of 943.4 billion yen ($8.87 billion), versus the median estimate of a 1 trillion yen deficit. It marked the first trade deficit in eight months.

REUTERS

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