Japan April exports down for 5th straight month on weak global chip market

TOKYO, NNA - Japanese exports posted the fifth straight year-on-year decline in April, reflecting a sluggish global semiconductor sector amid the escalating U.S.-China Trade dispute, trade statistics released Wednesday by the Ministry of Finance showed.

The trade surplus shrank 90 percent from a year earlier as exports to Asia continued to fall and imports were pushed up by higher crude oil prices. By contrast, shipments of automobiles and chipmaking equipment to the U.S. markets remained solid.

Key points:

-- Japanese exports fell 2.4 percent from a year earlier in April, hit by lower overall shipments of semiconductors and chipmaking equipment. It was the fifth consecutive y/y drop after falling 2.4 percent in March and 1.2 percent in February.

-- Exports to the United States marked the seventh straight y/y rise while those to the European Union posted the first drop in three months. Exports to Asia showed the sixth straight y/y fall and those to China dipped for the second month in a row.

-- Imports rose 6.4% for the second straight year-on-year rise after rising 1.2 percent in March and falling 6.5 percent in February. The increase was led by crude oil, computers and telecommunications equipment.

-- The April trade balance came to a surplus of 60.4 billion yen ($547 million), shrinking 90.3 percent from the surplus of 621.0 billion yen recorded a year earlier. It followed a surplus of 527.8 billion yen in March.

Takeaway:

-- While the global demand for semiconductors used in mobile phones and cars and at data centers remains weak, government policymakers and industry analysts expect a pickup late this year to early next year, on the assumption that the Chinese government will support domestic growth with more fiscal stimulus.

-- Estimates by Nomura Securities economists showed that Japan’s real exports rose 2.0 percent in April from March, and gained 2.5 percent from the average of January-March, when real exports dipped 2.7 percent from the previous quarter. This suggests a slight sign of a pickup in demand from China in addition to steady growth in exports to the U.S. but the outlook remains uncertain due to the trade row, Nomura economists said in a report.

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