Imports jumped 14.9 percent from the previous year to JPY 6,943 billion in December, beating expectations of a 12.3 percent climb but below the 17.2 percent growth recorded in November. Imports rose mostly for: mineral fuels (27.6 percent), of which petroleum (28.8 percent), LNG (16.7 percent) and coal (22.8 percent); electrical machinery (18.8 percent), of which telephone sets (104.7 percent); others (12.2 percent), of which scientific, optical instruments (11.9 percent) and clothing and accessories (4.4 percent); machinery (11.4 percent); chemicals (8.2 percent); foodstuff (5.5 percent); manufactured goods (12.1 percent); raw materials (10.3 percent); and transport equipment (3 percent).
Among major trading partners, imports rose from China (14.8 percent), South Korea (11.2 percent), Taiwan (14 percent), Australia (17.4 percent), the US (7.5 percent), Germany (15.2 percent) and Saudi Arabia (36 percent).
Exports rose at a softer 9.3 percent to JPY 7,302 billion, reaching the biggest amount since September 2008. That followed a 16.2 percent growth in November and compared to a consensus of 10.1 percent amid sustained global demand. Outbound shipments of machinery (13.9 percent) drove growth in December, with semicon machinery (17.8 percent) and power generating machines (8.4 percent) leading sales. Exports also increased for: transport equipment (4 percent); electrical machinery (9 percent); manufactured goods (12 percent); chemicals (11.1 percent); and others (6.4 percent).
Exports rose to all main partners: China (15.8 percent to an all-time high of JPY 1,507 billion); the US (3 percent); South Korea (7.1 percent); Taiwan (3 percent); and the EU (11.4 percent).
Considering full 2017, the trade surplus narrowed 25.1 percent to JPY 2.99 trillion, marking the second straight year of surplus. Imports surged 14 percent to JPY 75.30 trillion and exports jumped 11.8 percent to JPY 78.29 trillion. Japan ran a trade surplus of JPY 7.04 trillion with the US, logging the first year-on-year increase in two years. With China, Japan reported a trade gap of JPY 3.55 trillion, down 23.7 percent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the trade deficit with the EU stood at JPY 96.8 billion, down by 43.0 percent.