Monday, November 21, 2011

October - Exports fall for 1st time in 3 months

Japan's exports fell for the first time in three months in October, eroded by a strong yen and a sputtering global economy.

Exports declined 3.7 percent from a year earlier to 5.51 trillion yen ($71.7 billion), the finance ministry said Monday. Shipments to key markets such as China, North America and the European Union weakened.
The world's No. 3 economy relies heavily on overseas demand to drive growth. The slowdown suggests that its recovery from the March 11 tsunami and earthquake may be fading in the face of global headwinds.

Meanwhile, rising energy prices pushed imports up almost 18 percent to 5.79 trillion yen ($75.3 billion). That resulted in an unexpected trade deficit of 273.8 billion yen ($3.56 billion).

By category, exports of electrical machinery, including semiconductors and audio goods, fell 12.3 percent. Transportation equipment slipped 0.2 percent.

"Narrowing growth for auto-related categories suggests the post-quake supply recovery is tapering off," said Goldman Sachs economist Chiwoong Lee in a research note.

Economists predict Japan's gross domestic product will contract in the last quarter of the year after a recovery in exports helped it surge 6 percent in the July-September period.

The momentum is now being sapped by a strong yen, which shrinks the value of overseas earnings when repatriated and makes Japanese products less price competitive. The Japanese currency has hit multiple historic highs against the dollar this year as global investors flocked to the yen as a safe haven amid turmoil in the U.S. and Europe.

The currency levels have forced manufacturers including Nissan Motor Co. and Panasonic Corp. to shift some production overseas, a trend that could further undermine Japan's exports.

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