Japan’s exports grow amid weak yen but higher import bills hurt business mood By Reuters

Japan’s exports grow amid weak yen but higher import bills hurt business mood By Reuters

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports grew for the fourth straight month in March driven by U.S.-bound car shipments, although business confidence at big firms soured amid a slump in the yen and signalled that a sure-footed economic recovery was some time away.

Ministry of Finance data out on Wednesday showed Japan’s exports rose 7.3% year-on-year in March, compared with 7.8% gain in the previous month and 7.0% growth seen by economists in a Reuters poll.

Imports fell 4.9% in the year to March, versus 4.7% drop seen by economists following a 0.5% gain in February, resulting in a trade surplus of 366.5 billion yen, the first surplus in three months.

The trade data comes on the heels of a Reuters monthly poll that showed large companies’ business confidence slid in April, dragged down by cost-of-living pressures and shaky economic conditions in major market China.

The yen’s weakening to levels unseen since 1990 during the heyday of the asset-inflated bubble is lifting the cost of imports in a blow to household consumption, the survey showed.

The Japanese currency hit 34-year lows to the dollar beyond 154 yen this week, prompting repeated warnings from authorities that they stood ready to take action against speculative or destabilising currency moves.

A raft of data so far this year has pointed to insufficient demand in the economy. That’s one reason why the Bank of Japan has flagged a cautious track to monetary tightening following its landmark decision to end negative interest rates last month.

“Our sales appear to be boosted due to the impact of a weak yen, but there’s no sign of recovery in terms of volume,” a manager of a chemicals maker wrote in the survey.

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