Published monthly by the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Japan. Updated till the month of January 2017 (published on February 20th, 2017).
Recent data trend:
In January 2017, Japan’s trade balance fell significantly to 155.5 billion Yen from 327.5 billion Yen in December 2016, after a seasonal adjustment. The decline in the trade balance is mainly caused by an increase in imports. Imports grew by 8.5% year on year (YoY), a first YoY increase since December 2014.
A part of the increase in imports can be attributed to the rise in international fuel price. The price of imported energy has risen by 50% between the recent bottom in March 2016 and January 2017. However, the increase in imports is not just a price phenomenon. Imports have also grown in real terms by 3.5% YoY in January 2017.
In terms of exports to different regions, export to US and EU fell by 6.6% YoY and 5.6% YoY respectively. This resulted in the overall export to increase by only 1.3% YoY, supported by 3.1% increase of exports to China.
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: February 24th, 2017 (Revised January Data)
March 22nd, 2017 (Preliminary February Data)