Published monthly by the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Japan. Updated till the month of November 2016 (published on December 27th, 2016).
Recent data trend:
Japan's trade surplus was 536 billion yen in November 2016 after a seasonal adjustment, up from 467 billion yen in October 2016. After hitting a record low at -1.9 trillion yen in March 2014, Japan's trade balance has steadily improved for the past two and a half years. The plunge in imported energy prices has been the main cause of the improvement, but the steady expansion in export volume has already helped, especially in the last few months. Real exports have risen by roughly 10% while real imports have remained steady.
In the Abenomics context, export activities were initially a source of disappointments. Despite the tailwind from yen depreciation, the growth in Japan's export volume was quite limited. However, the steadiness of exports is now becoming a source of comfort for policy makers. Despite the rapid appreciation in yen in 2016, Japan's export volume has continued to expand in 2016.
Brief overview of “Customs-cleared trade”
Customs-cleared trade statistics records the value and the volume of goods traded across international borders. Given the importance of international trade for Japan, it is one of the key indicators to monitor the Japanese economy. The timeliness of the data that is released also adds to its importance. Full month results are announced approximately 20 days after the end of the reported month. Full month results include breakdown by type of goods as well as by countries. Separately, the Ministry of Finance, the reporting agency, publishes the first 20 days statistics. The statistics do not provide much detail beyond total export and import values, but it serves as a good leading indicator for the full month results.
On the same day that MoF publishes the full month results of customs-cleared trade, the Bank of Japan publishes real exports and real imports, usually at 2pm. The monthly real export/import tend to have a strong correlation to the export/import components of the quarterly GDP statistics.
Level of Japan's Real exports and imports
Level of Japan's Nominal exports and imports
Level of exports to US and to China
Total imports and its fossil fuel component
Nominal and Real Exports
Source: MoF, BoJ, JMA.
The Next Release Date:January 25th, 2017 (Preliminary December Data)
January 30th, 2017 (Revised December Data)