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Economy in Brief

Japanese Exports and Imports Both Grow in May
by Carol Stone June 23, 2004

Japanese trade flows are growing with some vigor. Exports rose a steep 7.3% in May to ¥5.24 billion, a record high outstripping by 7.2% the previous record of ¥4.89 billion, which was only just reached last December. Press reports accompanying this data release today highlighted this strong export gain and accompanying widening of the trade surplus to ¥1.28 billion. Indeed, this performance implies that world demand is strengthening.

Japanese imports have also been strong in recent months, and this development has received less attention. The monthly increase in May wasn't so large, "just" 1.5%, but imports having been gaining at a double-digit pace, gauged on a year-on-year basis. Their May total of ¥3.96 billion is the second highest ever, with the record barely higher at ¥3.98 billion in December 2000.

The current growth in imports is not in petroleum, which is in fact down from a year ago. Instead, raw materials, especially metals, and machinery, particularly parts and audio/video equipment are rising rapidly, albeit somewhat erratically. Thus, manufacturers look to be stocking up in anticipation of further production gains; possibly, also, consumer demand for televisions and similar items is picking up, even as those latter products are now frequently imported into Japan from elsewhere in Asia. These are both signs of broadening economic recovery in Japan and elsewhere.

Monthly Average or December/December
Billion Yen, except as noted May 2004 Apr 2004 Mar 2004 May 2003
2003 2002 2001
Trade Balance 1.28 0.98 1.00 0.87 0.85 0.82 0.55
Exports 5.24 4.89 4.86 4.46 4.55 4.34 4.08
Year/Year %Change 9.8% 10.8% 13.2% -- 8.5% 15.3% -14.5%
Imports 3.96 3.90 3.86 3.59 3.70 3.52 3.53
Year/Year %Change 4.9% 6.6% 12.3% -- 17.% 14.3% -13.4%
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