Japan's exports in April rose 38.0 percent from a year ago, the largest increase in over a decade, as they continued to recover from a coronavirus pandemic-triggered slump thanks to strong demand in China and the United States, government data showed Thursday.
Exports of goods in the reporting month soared to 7.18 trillion yen ($66 billion), posting the fastest pace of increase since a 40.4 percent jump in April 2010 when the world economy was rebounding from the global financial crisis, according to the preliminary data released by the Finance Ministry.
Exports expanded for the second straight month following a 16.1 percent leap in March.
The scale of the expansion is partly a reflection of a 21.9 percent plunge in the exports from the world's third-largest economy in April last year, when the pandemic was hampering business activities worldwide and denting global demand for Japan-made items such as cars.
Still, the latest exports figure was larger than the pre-pandemic figure of 6.66 trillion yen logged in April 2019.
Shipments of car and auto parts to the United States and semiconductor producing equipment to China increased remarkably in the reporting month.
Imports soared 12.8 percent in April to 6.93 trillion yen, up for the third month in a row, lifted by high prices of crude oil. The growth followed a revised 5.8 percent rise the previous month.
As a result, the trade balance logged a surplus of 255.32 billion yen, the third consecutive month of black ink.
By country, exports to China grew 33.9 percent from a year ago to 1.58 trillion yen, the second-highest level since comparable data became available in January 1979, following a record 1.63 trillion yen in March this year.
In addition to shipments of chip-making equipment amid a global shortage of semiconductors, those of hybrid cars and raw materials such as copper scrap contributed to the growth of exports to Japan's largest trading partner.
Imports from China inched up 0.7 percent, with a decrease in those of yarns and textile goods fully offset by rises in cellphones and nonferrous metals. The balance was a 165.99 billion yen deficit for Japan.
Exports to Asia including China hit the second-highest level of 4.16 trillion yen, up 32.7 percent. Imports grew 10.2 percent, with Japan seeing a 674.06 billion yen trade surplus.
Exports to the United States jumped 45.1 percent for the second successive month of increase after automobile shipments more than doubled. Imports were up 5.8 percent, resulting in a surplus for Japan of 537.72 billion yen.
"In addition to China, the pace of economic recovery in the United States is getting stronger thanks to its steady vaccination promotion and large-scale stimulus program, and that has made the conditions surrounding Japan's exports better," said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute.
The solid recovery of exports has been supporting Japan's economy, which is now suffering from dampened consumption under the government's third state of emergency declared in late April amid the spread of more contagious virus variants.
Minami said Japan's dependence on exports for economic recovery is expected to continue given its sluggish vaccine rollout. Meanwhile, he noted a risk that the global shortage of semiconductors, necessary parts for cars, could suppress auto exports.
All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.