October merchandise trade balance surprised with the first surplus since March. The unadjusted surplus was Y111.5 billion when compared with a year ago. Exports were down 2.1 percent on the year while import sank 13.4 percent. It was the first decline in exports in 14 months. Imports retreated for the tenth consecutive month from a year ago. Exports to Asia and China were 3.6 percent lower. However, exports to the US and EU were up 6.3 percent and 5.4 percent respectively.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the trade deficit was Y202.3 billion. Exports were up 0.6 percent on the month but down 2.5 percent from a year ago. Imports slipped 1.1 percent on the month and 11.0 percent from a year ago.
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.
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