Japan recorded a trade surplus in March as the stronger yen cuts the cost of imports, while exports fell.
The data showed overseas shipments dropped 6.8 percent from a year earlier, while imports plunged 14.9 percent in the same month, leaving a surplus of $6.9 billion.
Even as concern rises among Japanese policy makers that the yen’s 10 percent appreciation this year will undermine exports, the gain cuts the nation’s import bill. The average oil price declined 21 percent in March this year from the same month in 2015, cutting Japan’s fuel costs. The country depends on overseas supplies for almost all its energy, a situation worsened by the continued shutdown of most its nuclear reactors.
“Imports continued to be pushed down by energy-related goods,” according to a research note from Kyohei Morita and Yuichiro Nagai at Barclays before the data release. “Exports continued to lack any clear drivers” apart from shipping construction, they wrote.
The yen was trading at 109.24 per dollar at 8:55x a.m. in Tokyo. The currency’s advance this year reverses the trend that saw it drop almost 30 percent over the previous three years.