Rebounding Exports Push Japan to Surprise Trade Surplus

Posted July 21st, 2011 at 3:00 am (UTC-5)
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Japan posted an unexpected trade surplus in June, indicating that the world's third-largest economy is quickly recovering from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Figures released Thursday by the Ministry of Finance show Japan enjoyed a $898 million trade surplus in June, its first in three months. Exports rose 5.4 percent from the previous month as companies repaired supply chains and restored production. That was still down by 1.6 percent from June of last year, but much better than economists had forecast.

The ministry said automobile exports were down by 12.5 percent from June 2010, but much closer to last year's figures than in previous months. Auto exports were down by 67 percent in April and 39 percent in May.

The March disasters damaged factories, highways and rail lines across northeastern Japan. They also triggered a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing power shortages that still persist.

The ministry said shipments to China were up 1.2 percent in June, while exports to the European Union soared 8.0 percent. But exports to the United States were down by 6.1 percent, marking four straight months of declines.