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Economy in Brief

Japanese Exports Big Year to Year Decline
by Louise Curley  October 22, 2012

The disastrous earthquake and tsunami of March, 2011 disrupted Japan's foreign trade in goods for more than a year as the loss of production curtailed exports and increased imports. But so far there has not been a return to "normalcy", notably, a substantial surplus on trade in goods.  In fact, the September, 2012 data show that exports were 10.3% below September of a year ago, not far below the magnitude of the year to year* percentage declines immediately following the earthquake.  The first chart shows that over the recent past year exports have  frequently been smaller than imports leading to deficits on trade rather than the typical surplus of the past.

Japanese exporters have had to contend with a strong yen and weak economies among many of their important customers.  While exports to the US have managed to record year to year increases those to the European Union have seen year to year declines of more than 20% in the last four years.  In addition to the strong yen, exports to China, its largest customer, have been hampered by a dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.  There have been anti Japanese riots in more than 100 Chinese cities, suggesting further probable disruptions in Chinese demand.

Trade in Goods (Trillion Yen) - 2012
Sep Aug Jul Jun May Apr Mar Feb Jan
Exports 5359.8 5045.3 5313.1 5643.0 5233.7 5566.0 6203.7 5438.4 4510.4
Imports 5918.3 5801.3 5835.6 5583.8 6150.4 6089.9 6290.8 5413.0 5991.9
Balance -558.6 -755.9 -522.6 59.2 -917.2 -523.9 -87.1 25.4 -1481.6
Year to Year % Change
Exports -10.28 -5.79 -8.11 -2.28 9.96 7.94 5.89 -2.69 -9.25
Imports 4.4 -5.41 2.16 -2.21 9.44 8.08 10.61 9.31 9.60
Exp to China -14.10 -9.91 -11.89 -7.37 3.01 -7.13 -5.86 -14.02 -20.21
Exports to EU -21.06 -22.96 -25.01 -21.29 -0.85 -1.97 -9.68 -10.74 -7.60
Exports to US 0.87 10.32 4.66 15.11 38.09 42.93 23.91 11.93 0.66

* Since the data are not seasonally adjusted, the best way of analyzing changes in the data is to compare the year to year changes. 

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