Year-on-year, imports surged 12.5 percent to JPY 7.67 trillion in November, above market consensus of a 11.5 percent gain and following a 19.9 percent jump in the previous month. Purchases of mineral fuels soared 38.9 percent, driven by petroleum (44 percent), LNG (37.6 percent) and coal (27.4 percent). Also, imports of electrical machinery advanced 1.7 percent, boosted by telephony, telegraphy (0.8 percent) and telephone sets (0.8 percent). Imports of others went up 3.5 percent, led by clothing and accessories (1.3 percent) and scientific, optical instruments (4.2 percent). In addition, purchases grew for: machinery (17.6 percent); chemicals (14.9 percent), namely medical products (21.2 percent) and organic chemicals (18.9 percent); manufactured goods (4.7 percent), of which manufactures of metals (10.1 percent) and iron and steel products (11.5 percennt); and transport equipment (5.8 percent), namely motor vehicles (15.6 percent). Among major trading partners, imports went up mainly from China (4.2 percent); the US (8.1 percent); South Korea (11.9 percent); Saudi Arabia (45.4 percent); and United Arab Emirates (67.2 percent).
Exports edged up 0.1 percent to JPY 6.93 trillion, slower than an 8.2 percent increase in October and missing forecasts of a 1.8 percent rise. With the exception of a fall in September, it was the slowest growth in outbound shipments in two years, amid weakening global demand and ongoing trade dispute between China and the US. Sales of transport equipment grew 2.5 percent, driven by car (0.6 percent) and ships (78 percent); and those of manufactured goods increased 3 percent, namely iron and steel products (2.9 percent), non-ferrous metals (0.4 percent) and manufacture of metals (3.8 percent). Also, exports of chemicals rose 8.2 percent, of which plastic materials (1 percent) and organic chemicals (9.9 percent). On the other hand, sales of others fell 5.8 percent, due to scientific & optical instruments (-7.3 percent). Also, exports were down for: electrical machinery (-2.7 percent), of which semiconductors (-0.1 percent) and electrical apparatus (-2 percent); and machinery (-2.3 percent), led by semiconductor machinery (-18.9 percent). By country, sales increased to China (0.4 percent); Thailand (7.4 percent); the US (1.6 percent); the EU countries (3.9 percent); and Australia (7.4 percent). In contrast, exports declined to Hong Kong (-8.9 percet); Taiwan (-2.1 percent); South Korea (-9.3 percent); Singapore (-0.9 percent); Western Europe (-2.4 percent), mainly the UK (-10.1 percent).
Considering the first eleven months of 2018, Japan posted a trade deficit of JPY 1.14 trillion, compared to a surplus of JPY 2.5 trillion in the same period a year earlier.