Japan raises view on imports, sees rising bankruptcies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan raised its official assessment of imports for first time in nine months, the government’s monthly economic report showed on Tuesday, as the yen’s double-digit depreciation from a year earlier puffed up the value of imported goods.

While the report maintained the overview of the economy that it was on a moderate recovery, it recognised rising bankruptcies and maintained a warning against global financial volatility it added last month in response to Western bank collapses.

The report, crafted by the Cabinet Office, said Japan’s imports are generally staying flat, modifying a previous expression that they were weak, after shipments from the United States and Asia rebounded from a February dip.

Trade data out last week showed the hefty cost of coal and oil products, coupled with the yen’s 16.5% slump from a year before, increased imports by 7.3% in March, helping bring Japan’s trade deficit for fiscal 2022 to a record high.

The government also said bankruptcies are growing in Japan, having previously said they were staying at low levels. Data by credit research firm Tokyo Shoko Research showed 809 bankruptcies filed in March in Japan, up 40% from the previous month to hit the highest level since June 2015.

A Cabinet Office official did not specify causes for the rise in bankruptcies. Analysts have said the end of the government’s COVID-19 relief programme would prompt an increase in small businesses’ insolvency.

Elsewhere in the report, the government maintained a reference to the need to monitor the impact of overseas financial and capital market fluctuations.

While worries after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank appeared to have settled, as seen in metrics such as growing U.S. bank lending, the government must stay vigilant against financial market risks, the official told a news conference.

(This story has been corrected to say bankruptcies in March are up 40% from the previous month, not 36%, in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)