July merchandise trade surplus was Y513.5 billion from a year ago, down from Y693.1 billion in June. Expectations had been for a surplus of Y283.7 billion. Exports dropped 14.0 percent. This was the 10 consecutive drop while imports tumbled 24.7 percent and the 19 consecutive decline despite a stronger yen. The declines of exports and imports were the largest monthly drops since October 2009.
Exports to China were down 12.7percent the fifth straight drop. To Asia, exports declined 13.9 percent for the eleventh straight decline. Exports to the EU were 6.5 percent lower while those to the U.S. were down 11.8 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.