07/21/2011, 00.00
JAPAN

Japan recovers, posts a trade surplus

Since the 11 March disaster, trade figures were negative. Recovery is made possible by a more efficient organisation of production; however, power shortages, the world’s economic crisis and a stronger yen loom over the horizon.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan posted a trade surplus of Y70.7 billion (US4.4 million) in June, the first since the earthquake-cum-tsunami of 11 March, the Finance Ministry said. Experts had forecast a deficit of Y150 billion.

The overall trend however remains negative. Despite a 5.4 per cent rise in exports in June over May, export still declined by 1.6 per cent over a year before. In the previous two months, the drop had been double-digit. Meanwhile, imports rose by 9.8 per cent, less than May’s 12.3 per cent rise.

Companies so far appear to be coping with power restrictions during peak times by shifting some production to weekends, as the crisis continues at the Fukushima Daiichi plant whilst other nuclear facilities remain off-line following regular checks amid a lack of political clarity over restarting them.

Power shortages are expected to continue, particularly in the peak summer month of August.

A government decree took effect on 1 July forcing big companies in the Tokyo and Tohoku northern region to reduce peak power usage by 15 per cent to avoid blackouts, the first such restrictions on power use since the 1974 oil crisis.

The auto industry appears to be leading the recovery, following months of great losses.

Exports could continue to recover in July and August, but after that, things could be difficult if the economies of big importers of Japanese products like the United States and China slow down and the crisis of the euro zone persists.

In addition, the yen continues to strengthen to pre-disaster levels, which makes Japanese goods more expensive overseas and imports more attractive.
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