In May, imports surged 14 percent year-on-year to JPY 6,901 billion, beating consensus of a 8.2 percent rise and reaching the highest value since January. Purchases of mineral fuels rose by 20.7 percent, namely petroleum (28.6 percent), and those of electrical machinery increased 6.2 percent, in particular semiconductors (10.9 percent). Also imports advanced for: chemicals (19.1 percent); machinery (10.6 percent), driven by power generating machine (10.3 percent); manufactured goods (15.5 percent), of which non-ferrous metals (20.8 percent), iron & steel products (19.9 percent) and manufactures of metals (14.1 percent); foodstuff (8.2 percent), of which meat and meat preparation (6.2 percent) and fruits (6 percent); transport equipment (36.4 percent), namely motor vehicles (10.7 percent) and aircraft (264.4 percent); others (6.4 percent), of which clothing and accessories (13.4 percent); and scientific, optical instruments (9.2 percent).
Among major trading partners, inbound shipments increased from Asia (9.4 percent), mainly from China (8.6 percent); South Korea (12.7 percent); Taiwan (12.2 percent); Thailand (12.4 ). Also, purchases grew from the US (19.9 percent); the Western Europe countries (14 percent), mainly from Germany (11 percent), the UK (16.3 percent); Australia (21.1 percent); and the Middle East (33.5 percent).
Exports rose by 8.1 percent year-on-year to JPY 6,323 billion, above expectations of a 7.5 percent gain in the prior month and marking the strongest growth in 4 months. Sales of transport equipment advanced 1.7 percent, mainly led by cars (6.2 percent), and those of machinery went up 9.9 percent, namely power generating machine (4.9 percent) and semicon machinery (23.4 percent). Also, exports rose for electrical machinery (11.3 percent), of which semiconductors (8.4 percent); chemicals (12.5 percent); others (2.2 percent), mainly driven by photographic supplies (10.7 percent); and manufactured goods (10.7 percent).
Sales to Asia rose 9.8 percent, mainly to China (13.9 percent), Taiwan (12.5 percent), and Singapore (11.5 percent), while those to Hong Kong (-4.6 percent), South Korea (-0.6 percent) fell. At the same time, exports grew to the US (5.8 percent); the Middle East (15 percent) and Australia (28.1 percent). In contrast, sales declined to the EU countries (-0.3 percent), mainly the UK (-8.1 percent).
Considering the first five months 2018, Japan's trade deficit narrowed to JPY 104.7 billion from JPY 590.1 billion in the same period of the preceding year.