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

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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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