Tokyo: Japan’s exports almost halved in March from a year earlier but analysts said there were signs the sharp slide in shipments was easing.
Japan’s big manufacturing exporters have been hit hard by the worst global downturn since the 1930s Great Depression but analysts pointed to a slowing pace of falls and suggested that exports may have stabilised on a month-to-month basis.
They also pointed to a slowing pace of decline in shipments to China as a sign that China’s huge stimulus package is starting to benefit Japanese exports.
“Gross domestic product for the January-March quarter may show exports fell around 20% on quarter, as weak external demand weighs on Japanese growth,” said Yoshiki Shinke, a senior economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.
“However, the worst of the decline in exports may be over. Exports to China are falling at a slower pace and may improve further due to the Chinese government’s stimulus package.”
After the figures came out the dollar edged down to 98.47 yen.
The Nikkei average rose 0.5% with financial shares boosted by a comment by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that US banks have enough capital to keep lending.
Japan’s exports fell 45.6% in March, largely in line with the median forecast from economists for a 46.5% drop, while imports fell 36.7% against an expected 38% decline, the Ministry of Finance data showed.
That produced an ¥11.0 billion ($111.5 million) trade surplus in March, down 99% from a year earlier but better than economists’ forecasts for a deficit of ¥5.0 billion.
Exports halved in February from a year earlier on plunging demand for Japanese automobiles and electronics in the United States and Europe, with sales also seen slowing in emerging nations.
In one bright spot, exports to China fell only 31.5% in March from a year earlier, against a 39.7% decline in February and a 45.2% fall in January as the slump in shipments slowed.
Exports to the United States dropped 51.4% in March from a year earlier, and those to the European Union were down 56.1%.
Shipments of Japanese goods to both destinations suffered the biggest annual declines in February in comparable data going back to 1980.
Exports to Asia, which had previously offset falling exports to the United States and Europe, fell 39.5%.
The Bank of Japan may downgrade its forecast for the economy again in its twice-yearly outlook report later this month in a sign that the country’s recession is far from over, the Nikkei business daily reported on Wednesday.
The BOJ will likely lower its projections and say it expects the economy to shrink by between 3 and 5% in the fiscal year ending in March 2010 due to weaker production, the newspaper said.
The government will cut its economic forecast for the current fiscal year to a 3% contraction, the Nikkei and other Japanese media have reported, amid a rapid deterioration in the economy due to tumbling exports and cutbacks in production.