JP: Merchandise Trade

Sun May 24 18:50:00 CDT 2015

Consensus Actual Previous
Level Y-310B Y-53.4B Y229.3B
Exports-Y/Y 6.5% 8.0% 8.5%
Imports-Y/Y -1.4% -4.2% -14.5%

A strong rise in exports helped Japan register a smaller than expected merchandise trade deficit during April. The trade deficit was Y53.4 billion from a downwardly revised Y227.4.3 billion surplus in March that was the nation's first trade surplus since June 2012. It is evident that the weaker yen played a role. The yen's help was most obvious in exports, which were up 8.0 percent on the year, down slightly from 8.5 percent in March. Imports, though, were down 4.2 percent on the year after sinking 14.5 percent in March. Import growth has been negative in the first four months of this year.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the merchandise trade deficit was Y208.7 billion after a surplus of Y5.0 billion. Exports were down 1.5 percent on the month while imports were up 1.8 percent.

Merchandise trade balance measures the difference between imports and exports of both tangible goods and services. The level of the international trade balance, as well as changes in exports and imports, indicate trends in foreign trade.

Japan's merchandise trade balance measures visible trade and excludes services. Specifically it is the difference between imports of goods and exports of goods. A positive value indicates a trade surplus (exports exceed imports) while a negative value indicates a trade deficit (imports exceed exports). Movements in the trade balance reflect altered demand for Japanese exports which subsequently impact the yen's value and directly affect GDP growth because of the economy's dependence on trade.

The report gives insight into changing trends regarding Japanese trade. Such developments are especially important for Japan, which is an export-oriented economy that has historically experienced large trade surpluses and any change can have a dramatic effect on the domestic economy. Typically the headline number is the change from the previous year in yen along with the percentage change in exports and in imports from the previous year.