TOKYO: Japanese exports to China rose for the first time in seven months in February, the government announced on Thursday, though analysts said the gain was distorted by the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday.
China is Japan’s top trading partner, but the Asian giant’s economic growth has been
slowing as Beijing tries to pull off a delicate rebalancing towards consumer spending from exports and government spending, even as fears of a “hard landing” are rising.
Japan’s shipments to China rose 5.1 percent in February from the same period last year, the first gain since July, the finance ministry said.
The increase was led by automobiles, while metal processing machinery and engines were also strong, the ministry said.
The result also contributed to Japan recording an overall trade surplus of 242.8 billion yen ($2.15 billion)—the first in two months—though falling oil prices were seen as the key contributor.
Marcel Thieliant, an economist at capital Economics, cautioned against reading too much into the export figures.
“Around half of Japan’s exports end up in countries that celebrate Lunar New Year, and shifts in the timing of the festivities tend to affect trade volumes,” he wrote in a note.
Overall, Japanese exports fell 4.0 percent in February from the same period last year, led by steel exports, marking the fifth straight monthly decline.
Imports, meanwhile, declined 14.2 percent, largely due to sliding prices of liquefied natural gas and oil into resource-poor Japan.
“Import prices of energy, such as crude oil and LNG, have lifted Japan’s trade balance,” said Junichi Makino, chief economist at SMBC Nikko Securities.