Japan unexpectedly slumped back into a trade deficit for the first time in four months, as soaring energy import bills offset growth in the country’s shipments abroad, government data showed yesterday.
Japan logged a surprise deficit of ￥203 billion (US$1.8 billion), the first red ink in four months, according to data from the Japanese Ministry of Finance, despite market expectations for a surplus.
“Crude oil prices rebounded while the yen was weaker in the month,” Barclays Capital economist Yuichiro Nagai said.
The yen was 2.3 percent weaker against the dollar compared with levels recorded a year earlier, which helped push up imports costs.
The deficit came as a surprise after recent data showed Japan’s economy was picking up steam with exports growing on the back of a global economic recovery.
Nagai said there was no need to be overly pessimistic over figures for a single month.
Last month’s data showed “a correction in speed,” but the economy is likely to continue to expand in the July-September quarter even if it stalls in April-June, he said.
The latest report “confirms that the shipments will continue to drive Japan’s economy in coming months, feeding gradually to capital spending and household spending,” Norinchukin Research Institute chief Japan economist Takeshi Minami said.
Last month’s deficit is “mainly because of a rise in imports, reflecting Japan’s resilient economy,” Minami said.
Overall exports last month rose 14.9 percent from a year earlier to ￥5.85 trillion, thanks to an increase in shipments of cars and steel, chalking up growth for the sixth consecutive month.
The growth in exports is partly thanks to a rebound after powerful twin quakes in southwestern Japan last year disrupted production and supply chains.
However, imports expanded faster, rising 17.8 percent to ￥6.05 trillion, boosted by heavier costs for liquefied natural gas, coal and crude oil.
Japan’s dependence on fossil fuels has risen since the nation shifted to thermal power generation with most of the nation’s nuclear reactors remaining offline after the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster.
Japan’s politically sensitive surplus with the US rose 19 percent to ￥411 billion as exports increased 11.6 percent.
The trade deficit with China shrank 22.4 percent to ￥311.8 billion as exports grew 23.9 percent.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying for years to rejuvenate growth and end an extended period of on-and-off deflation.
Despite the uptrend in the overall economy, consumer prices remain below the Bank of Japan’s 2 percent inflation target.
DEVELOPING TALENT: The electronics contractor is looking to recruit people to work in core tech fields and emerging industries like electric cars and robotics Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest contract electronics maker, has launched a recruitment drive, offering a monthly salary of no less than NT$45,000 (US$1,485) to university graduates. For those with a master’s degree, the starting pay would be NT$52,000 per month at the minimum, while doctorate degree holders would receive at least NT$60,000 a month, Hon Hai said a statement issued early this week. The latest recruitment drive is aimed at attracting talent in core technology fields — artificial intelligence, semiconductors and next-generation mobile communications — and emerging industries — electric vehicles, digital healthcare and robotics, the
MRT TRAVEL FALLS: In February, ridership on the Taipei MRT System fell 8.96 percent from an average of 2.01 million per day in January Scooter sales jumped 13 percent last month as more commuters turned to two-wheelers to avoid public transportation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest statistics showed. Sales expanded to 74,493 units last month, compared with 65,913 units in February, statistics released on Wednesday by Kwang Yang Motor Co (光陽工業) and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications showed. In the first quarter, aggregate sales slid 0.51 percent year-over-year to 186,627 units, from 187,580 units, data showed. Kwang Yang, the nation’s biggest scooter manufacturer, continued to lead the market by selling 24,136 vehicles last month, growing 6.12 percent from 20,785 units in the previous month, while
Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), the nation’s leading PC vendor, yesterday launched its first dual-screen gaming laptop powered by Intel Corp’s latest central processing units (CPUs). The PC manufacturer’s announcement closely followed the US chipmaker’s unveiling of its 10th Generation Core H-series, the fastest commercial mobile processors with speeds of up to 5 gigahertz. Although Asustek’s Zephyrus Duo 15, the highlight of its Republic of Gamers line, is not the company’s first laptop with two screens, it is its first designed specifically for gaming. Nestled between the primary display panel and the keyboard, the secondary display, which Asustek calls the ScreenPad Plus, is angled
NO ILL EFFECT: Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the spread of COVID-19 was still relatively mild in Taiwan, housing brokers said Housing transactions in the six special municipalities totaled 19,824 units last month, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier, brokers said, citing government data. Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic was not yet evident, they said. Taoyuan posted the largest improvement, with housing transactions soaring 36.6 percent year-on-year to 3,676 units, local government data showed. Taiwan Realty Co (台灣房屋) attributed the pickup to the completion of two presale residential projects in the municipality. Houses in Taoyuan have increasingly gained in popularity in the past few year years due to relatively affordable home prices and