— Japan Feb Trade Surplus Y32.9 Bln; MNI Fcast -Y125.0 Bln
— Japan Feb Exports -2.7% Y/Y Vs MNI Median Forecast -6.5%
— Japan Feb Exports Post 5th Y/Y Drop In Row
— Japan Feb Imports +9.2% Y/Y Vs MNI Median Forecast +8.4%
— Japan Feb Imports Post 26th Y/Y Rise In Row
— Japan Feb Exports to Asia -6.6% Y/Y, 5th Drop In Row
— Japan Feb Exports To China -13.9% Y/Y, 5th Drop In Row
— Japan Feb Exports To US +11.9% Y/Y, 4th Rise In Row
— Japan Feb Exports To EU -10.7% Y/Y, 5th Drop In Row
— Japan Feb Exports To Thailand +11.4% Y/Y Vs Jan -8.5%
— Japan Feb Imports From Thailand -6.6% Y/Y Vs Jan -13.4%

TOKYO (MNI) – Japan unexpectedly logged the first trade surplus in
five months in February on brighter North American growth prospects and
solid demand from Southeast Asia amid easing fears of the yen hurting an
export-led recovery, data from the Ministry of Finance showed Thursday.

Japan posted a small trade surplus of Y32.9 billion last month,
compared with a record deficit of Y1.475 trillion marked in January and
a surplus of Y637 billion a year earlier.

In January, the recent export slump caused by the global slowdown
and the strong yen was aggravated by the Lunar New Year holidays, which
led to sharp drops in exports to China and some other Asian economies.

The February trade figure came in much better than the median
forecast by economists in a MNI survey for a deficit of Y125.0 billion.

Japan posted a trade deficit of Y2.49 trillion in 2011, the first
shortfall since 1980, when the aftermath of the second oil crisis pushed
up import costs sharply, resulting in a trade deficit worth Y2.6

But economists forecast that exports will gradually move out of the
downtrend in coming months, thanks to a recovery in global demand for
automobiles and electronics, while the yen has depreciated from record
highs against the dollar hit last year.

Japanese manufacturers are also recovering from last year’s supply
chain breakdown in flood-hit Thailand, a key production center in Asia.

In February, exports fell only 2.7% on the year to Y5.44 trillion,
marking a fifth straight month of declines after -9.3% in January. It
was better than the median forecast by economists in a MNI survey for a
6.5% drop.

Automobile exports rose 7.4% in February, with the pace of
year-on-year growth accelerating from +2.2% in January.

Japanese imports rose 9.2% y/y in February to Y5.41 trillion for
the 26th consecutive rise on continued high demand for crude oil and
liquefied natural gas used for power generation. It was above the median
forecast by economists in a MNI survey for a 8.4% rise.

In February, imported crude oil prices averaged $116.3 a barrel, up
21.2% on year. The pace of growth decelerated from rises of 23.5% in
January, 32.4% in December, 33.0% in November and 43.5% in October.

Exports to Asia, the largest market for Japanese goods, fell 6.6%
to Y2.91 trillion last month, a fifth straight drop, following -13.7% in
January and -11.7% in December.

Exports to China declined 13.9% to Y1.0 trillion in February, also
the fifth consecutive y/y drop after -20.2% in January and -16.3% in

But Japan’s exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
rose 4.0% to Y820.0 billion in February after falling 5.6% in January
and slipping 3.6% in December.

Shipments to Thailand now posted a 11.4% rise on year in February
after falling 8.5% in January while imports from the Southeast Asian
country fell 6.6%, with the pace of decline slowing from -13.4% in the
previous month.

Exports to the U.S. rose 11.9% to Y953.4 billion in February for a
fourth straight y/y rise, led by solid demand for automobiles, steel and
construction machinery. It was the highest rise since +16.5% in December

Meanwhile, exports to the European Union fell 10.7% to Y591.5
billion in February for a fifth straight year-on-year fall as car
exports remained depressed.

** MNI Tokyo Newsroom: 81-3-5403-4835 **

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