Japan’s exports rose for the first time in 15 months in December on strong sales of electronics and car parts, a positive sign for the export-reliant economy even as U.S. protectionism threatens to hurt trade across the region and dent external demand.
Ministry of Finance data showed on Wednesday that exports rose 5.4 percent year-on-year in December, compared with a 1.2 percent annual increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll. It followed an annual 0.4 percent decline in November.
The volume of shipments also rose 8.4 percent from a year earlier, up for a second straight month, underlining a pickup in external demand.
The trade data should be welcome news for the Bank of Japan, which is seen maintaining an upbeat view on the world’s third largest economy at a policy review next week on prospects of improving global growth.
However, worries about protectionism under U.S. President Donald Trump have raised uncertainty over the outlook as he formally withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on Monday, distancing America from its Asian allies.
“Global demand is firming up as emerging markets in Asia are catching up with a recovery in advanced economies,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.
“If debate on protectionism leads to an unwelcome rise in the yen, that would dampen the momentum towards a pickup in Japan’s exports though.”
BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda last week offered an optimistic view on global recovery prospects, indicating the central bank will maintain its upbeat economic and price forecasts when its board conducts a quarterly review of projections on Jan. 30-31.
The BOJ chief also dismissed concerns that protectionism could spread and undermine global trade.