Customs-Cleared Trade Japan

Higher commodity prices threaten Japan to tip back into trade deficits

Published monthly by the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Japan. Updated till the month of May 2017 (published on June 22nd, 2017).

Recent data trend:

In May 2017, Japan’s trade surplus contracted to 133.8 billion Yen after a seasonal adjustment, a fall from 157.6 billion Yen in the previous month. This is the lowest trade surplus since January 2016. Before the seasonal adjustment, Japan run a trade deficit of 203 billion yen In May. 

Exports grew by 14.9% year on year (YoY) mostly led by exports to China that grew by 23.9% YoY. However, imports grew even faster by 17.9% YoY, leading to a shrinkage in Japan's trade surplus. The fast rise in imports is mostly caused by the rise in commodity prices and energy prices. Imports from Middle East and Canada, both commodity producers, rose by 24.1% YoY and by 42.4% YoY respectively. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that another 15% rise in commodity prices will cause Japan to start to run sustained trade deficits. 

While Japan's overall trade surplus remains rather small, Japan's trade surplus with US remains sizable at 558 billion Yen in May 2017 after a seasonal adjustment. The size of Japan's trade surplus with US will continue to haunt Japanese policy makers who are facing demands from their US counterpart to adopt measures to reduce the surplus. 

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.

For more information visit the official government page

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 regional real exports and real imports are released by Bank of Japan after three business days from the publication of the custom-cleared trade data. The monthly real export/import tend to have a strong correlation to the export/import components of the quarterly GDP statistics.

For more information visit the official government page

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:June 29th, 2017 (Revised May Data)

                                       July 20th, 2017 (Preliminary June Data)


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