Japan exports rise for the first time in three months

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports grew for the first time in three months in September, amid signs of resilience in overseas markets, but a worsening conflict in the Middle East and slowdown in China cloud the outlook for the world’s third-largest economy.

Exports grew 4.3% in September from a year earlier, Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed on Thursday, bigger than a 3.1% increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll and a 0.8% fall in August.

Exports were driven by car shipments, which account for 18% of overall exports, offsetting declines in exports of chip-related products. China-bound food exports, including fishery produce, tumbled 58% year-on-year in September due to its ban on Japanese food imports on worries about water released from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

By destination, exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner followed by the United States, fell 6.2% year-on-year in September, posting a 10th straight month of decline, dragged by weaker demand for chips and electronic parts, food and electronic circuits.

U.S.-bound exports rose 13% year-on-year, led by hybrid vehicles, mining and construction machinery and motors.

China’s economy grew at a faster-than-expected clip in the third quarter, while consumption and industrial activity in September also surprised on the upside, suggesting the recent flurry of policy measures is supporting a tentative recovery.

The trade data also showed imports fell 16.3% in the year to September, versus the median estimate for a 12.9% decrease.

($1 = 149.7500 yen)

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto. Editing by Sam Holmes)