Published monthly by the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Japan. Updated till the month of February 2017 (published on March 30th, 2017).
Recent data trend:
In February 2017, Japan's trade balance expanded to 680 billion yen, the largest surplus since April 2010 after a seasonal adjustment. Exports grew robustly in February, mostly led by exports to China. On a year on year (YoY) terms, exports to China jumped in February by 28% YoY, up from 3% YoY in January. The jump is partly due to the Chinese New Year effect. Since the Chinese New Year started in late January this year, some of the shipment to China probably shifted into the month of February, boosting the export volume in February.
It is not all Chinese New Year effect though. There has been an upswing in exports to China since September 2016 and we would evaluate the robust exports to China in February as half coming from the Chinese New Year effect and the other half due to a genuine expansion in exports to China.
On the trade with US, Japan continues to run a sizable trade surplus. After a seasonal adjustment, we estimate that Japan's trade surplus with US to be 572 billion yen in February, equivalent to over 1% of Japan's GDP. Japan's large trade surplus will continue to be a thorn on US-Japan economic relationship.
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 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.
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:April 20th, 2017 (Preliminary March Data)
April 27th, 2017 (Revised March Data)