Imports increased 7 percent year-on-year to JPY 6.59 trillion in September 2018, much slower than a 15.3 percent growth in August and way below market estimates of 13.7 percent. Purchases of mineral fuels surged 42.1 percent, boosted by petroleum (37.9 percent), LNG (42.6 percent) and coal (24.5 percent); and those of electrical machinery went up 0.7 percent, driven by telephony, telegraphy (14.7 percent). In addition, imports increased for machinery (0.2 percent); chemicals (4.2 percent), namely organic chemicals (25.5 percent); and manufactured goods (2.8 percent), of which iron & steel products (9.7 percent); non-ferrous metals (3.9 percent) and manufacture of metals (3.9 percent). In contrast, imports of others fell 5 percent, of which scientific & optical instruments (-5.8 percent); and those of transport equipment declined 2.1 percent. By country, purchases rose from China (4.2 percent); South Korea (8.8 percent); the US (3.1 percent); the EU (0.7 percent); Australia (30.5 percent); and the Middle East (35.4 pct), mainly Saudi Arabia (26.7 percent) and United Arab Emirates (47 percent). In contrast, imports dropped from Taiwan (-4.2 percent); Thailand (-1.8 percent); Malaysia (-4.6 percent); Indonesia (-3.8 percent) and Western Europe (-0.8 percent), namely Germany (-7.1 percent) and Italy (-4.4 percent).
Exports unexpectedly fell 1.2 percent year-on-year to JPY 6.73 trillion, missing consensus of a 1.9 pct rise and after a 6.6 pct gain in August. It was the first decline in outbound shipments in 22 months, amid trade war fears and after a series of natural disasters. Sales of transport equipment dropped 2.1 percent, driven by motor vehicles (-4.7 percent) and aircraft (-1.5 percent); and those of others fell 7.4 percent, due to scientific & optical instruments (-3.3 percent). Also, exports were down for electrical machinery (-2.4 percent), of which semiconductors (-1.7 percent) and IC (-3.4 percent); and manufactured goods (-2.2 percent), namely non-ferrous metals (-7.1 percent) and manufacture of metals (-2.3 percent). On the other hand, exports of machinery grew 0.1 percent, led by power generating machines (3.9 percent) and semiconductor machinery (9.6 percent); and those of chemicals rose 3.4 percent, of which organic chemicals (4.2 percent). By country, sales declined to China (-1.7 percent); South Korea (-4.6 percent); the US (-0.2 percent); Western Europe (-9.4 percent), mainly Germany (-0.5 percent) and the UK (-10.8 percent); the EU countries (-4.1 percent); the Middle East (-5.3 pct), particularly Saudi Arabia (-4.9 percent); and Australia (-8.1 percent).
Considering January to September 2018, Japan recorded a trade surplus of JPY 66 billion, far lower than a surplus of JPY 1.6 trillion in the same period the preceding year.