Shipments abroad rose 12.1 percent in December from a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said. Exports fell 6.3 percent in November.
Japanese manufacturers from Honda Motor Co. to Fuji Xerox Co. are benefiting from renewed demand in emerging nations including China, where gross domestic product expanded at the fastest pace since 2007 last quarter. The booming economy in Japan’s largest overseas market may help offset weak demand at home weighed down by falling wages and deflation.
The improvement in exports last month was partly due to a favorable year-on-year comparison. In December 2008, shipments abroad tumbled 35 percent as global trade froze in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ collapse in September. From a month earlier, exports rose a seasonally adjusted 2.5 percent in December, today’s report showed.
Imports slid 5.5 percent in December from a year earlier, the smallest drop in 14 months. Japan posted a trade surplus for an 11th straight month, totaling 545.3 billion yen ($6.1 billion).
While the currency is weaker than the 14-year high of 84.83 reached in November, it has advanced more than 3 percent this year, and is still stronger than the 92.93 that manufacturers expect the currency to average in the year ending March 31.
Demand from Asia led the resurgence in trade. Shipments to Asia advanced 31.2 percent from a year earlier, the fastest pace since February 2000. Exports to China climbed 42.8 percent, the largest increase in almost three years, led by record demand for automobiles. Exports to the U.S. fell 7.6 percent, while shipments to Europe rose 1.4 percent, the first increase in 17 months.
In 2009, exports fell 33 percent, the biggest drop since comparable figures were made available in 1979. China surpassed the U.S. as Japan’s largest export market for the first time on an annual basis, the report showed.