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Japan exports keep falling in Aug. as pandemic weakens global demand

This May 23, 2019 file photo shows cargo containers at Tokyo port. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's exports continued to decline in August on weakening global demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the country logged a trade surplus as imports also decreased on cheaper oil prices, government data showed Wednesday.

    Exports slid 14.8 percent from a year earlier to 5.23 trillion yen ($50 billion), marking a double-digit fall for the sixth month in a row, as auto shipments to the European and Asian markets except China remained sluggish, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

    But the pace of fall slowed from 19.2 percent in July, 26.2 percent in June and 28.3 percent in May.

    Imports decreased 20.8 percent to 4.98 trillion yen, down for the 16th straight month, on falling prices for crude oil imports from the United Arab Emirates and other countries. Imports of liquefied natural gas and coal from Australia also significantly dropped.

    The goods trade surplus stood at 248.30 billion yen in the reporting month, ensuring there was black ink for the second consecutive month following the 10.93 billion yen recorded in July.

    Domestic business activities have been gradually resuming since a state of emergency over the pandemic was fully lifted in late May. But the viral crisis has cast a shadow over the global economic outlook and dampened demand.

    By product, exports of cars slumped 19.4 percent while those of auto parts sank 21.0 percent. However, that was an improvement from the 30.0 percent and 32.5 percent respective drops in July.

    "It's quite difficult to judge from the latest figures whether exports have bottomed out," a ministry official told reporters.

    Exports to China, Japan's largest trading partner, increased 5.1 percent to 1.26 trillion yen for the second consecutive month of growth while imports fell 7.0 percent to 1.32 trillion yen, down for the second straight month.

    Japan's exports to the United States fell 21.3 percent to 936.85 billion yen, down for the 13th successive month. Imports declined 22.0 percent to 563.74 billion yen, down for the fourth month in a row.

    Exports to Asia as a whole slid 7.8 percent to 3.08 trillion yen and imports sank 11.2 percent to 2.58 trillion yen.

    With the European Union, exports fell 19.2 percent to 476.29 billion yen and imports dropped 22.1 percent to 557.35 billion yen.

    A pickup in the pace of exports is "likely to be very gradual" due to a slowdown in the global economy, said Kazuma Maeda, an economist at Barclays Securities Japan Ltd.

    All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.

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