Japan’s exports rose more than forecast in December, reaching the highest level in six years and paring a record annual trade deficit caused by energy purchases and a surge in imports before April’s sales-tax increase.
Overseas shipments climbed 12.9 percent from a year earlier, the finance ministry reported Monday, compared with the median estimate for a 11.2 percent gain in a Bloomberg News survey.
Exports to the U.S. rose almost 24 percent, while those to the EU climbed 6.8 percent and shipments to China were up 4.3 percent.
“The weakening yen and strong economic growth in the U.S. are behind the recovery in exports,” said Minoru Nogimori, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. “Exports will lead Japan’s economy, especially in the first half of this year before the Fed raises the policy rate.”
Overseas sales of cars, semiconductor components and steel were the largest contributors to the rise, with an increase in the value and volume of liquid natural gas imports the biggest factor in the rise in imports. The value of crude oil purchases from overseas dropped 22 percent as the price slumped.
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