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Japan’s December exports, imports hit record high by value as supply bottlenecks ease

Japan’s exports and imports in December hit record highs in terms of their value in yen, data showed on Thursday (Jan 20), as supply bottlenecks eased at the end of 2021 amid rising prices.

However, a persistent semiconductor shortage remains a headache for Japanese firms such as automaker Toyota, which slashed its near-term output target this week, in addition to uncertainties around the Omicron variant.

Exports jumped 17.5 per cent from a year earlier, Ministry of Finance data showed, outstripping a 16.0 per cent gain expected by economists in a Reuters poll but below a 20.5 per cent rise in November.

Yen-denominated exports and imports hit records of 7,881.4 billion yen (US$69 billion) and 8,463.8 billion yen, respectively, the biggest since comparable data became available in January 1979, largely as rising inflation affected both flows.

Steel exports rose 75.1 per cent year-on-year by value, but the gain in export volume was 10.2 per cent, suggesting soaring commodity prices pushed up values of made-in-Japan goods sold overseas.

Exports to China, Japan’s biggest trade partner, grew 10.8 per cent in December from a year earlier.

Shipments to the United States rose 22.1 per cent, with car exports marking their first year-on-year rise in five months at 11.9 per cent.

Imports surged 41.1 per cent on higher raw material costs and a weak yen, compared with expectations of a rise of 42.8 per cent and growth of 43.8 per cent in November.

This led to a trade deficit of 582.4 billion yen (US$5.09 billion) in December, versus expectations of 784.1 billion yen.

For the full year 2021, Japan reported a trade deficit of 1,472.2 billion yen, the first in two years and following a 388.3 billion surplus in 2020, amid higher fuel import costs.

Japan’s economy is expected to have grown by an annualised 6.5 per cent in the last quarter of 2021 thanks to a strong rebound in domestic consumption, according to a Reuters poll.

But policymakers have been wary of risks from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, as Japan recorded its largest daily COVID-19 infections on Tuesday.
Source: Reuters

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