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Economy in Brief

Japan’s Imports Hold Up As Exports Slow
by Robert Brusca  January 24, 2008

Japan’s exports show a withering trend as Japan’s imports continue to rise at a brisk pace. Export and import price indexes, however, show that export volumes are being maintained better than the nominal figures tell us as export prices are falling and falling faster than nominal exports are shrinking. Imports on the other hand are not as strong as nominal figures show since prices are rising sharply. While imports are up by 37% in the past three months from August to November, import prices rose by less at 35.8% for October through December. As a result Japan’s nominal trade figures give exactly the opposite impression of what is going on.

Nominal imports are rising, while real imports are actually slowing. On the export side nominal exports are falling, but export volumes are in fact still expanding. Rising oil prices are creating a misdirection in terms of import trends. For exports, the rise in the yen accounts for the drop in export prices. The yen’s rise tends to result in a reduction of yen export prices, as though exports are denominated in foreign currency. Volume still seems to be rising, but if this is a currency effect it could be a warning that profits for exports are in for a set back.

Japan Trade Trends
  in period level of % chg Average in period/or % change
All data yen basis Dec-07 Nov-07 Oct-07 3Mo Prev 6Mo Prev 12Mos Prev 12 mo Ago
Balance on Goods -- 11,959 13,141 11,929 11,196 10,628 7,838
  % m/m % saar
Exports Goods % 0.9% 0.6% 1.9% 1.5% 6.9% 9.6% 22.1%
Motor Vehicles 2.5% -3.9% 17.9% -6.1% 11.3% 16.2% 40.7%
Imports Goods % 3.9% 3.6% 2.9% 35.8% 13.7% 11.4% 24.1%
Motor Vehicles -25.2% -7.5% 9.8% -84.4% -53.1% -27.4% -23.3%
Prices in %, SAAR 3-Mos 6-Mos 12-Mos 12 mos Ago
Export Prices 0.1% -1.3% 0.7% -5.3% -10.4% -1.8% 1.4%
Import Prices 4.9% 0.7% 3.8% 37.2% 10.0% 12.6% 6.6%
Memo: Yen/$, AVG, Level 112.45 111.07 115.87 113.13 115.43 117.76 116.35
Memo Yen Percent ('-' is a fall) -1.2% 4.1% -0.7% 13.9% 16.0% 4.2% 1.0%
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