TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s export growth slowed in September for the first time in three months, official data on Thursday showed, in a sign overseas demand for goods from the world’s third-largest economy may be taking a breather.
The 14.1 percent year-on-year increase in exports was less than the median estimate for a 14.9 percent increase and was less than an 18.1 percent rise in August, which was the fastest expansion in almost four years.
Economists expect Japan’s exports to start growing at a faster pace as demand for goods picks up heading into the year-end shopping season and as a weak yen increases export competitiveness, which should support economic growth.
“This slowdown in export growth is temporary,” said Hiroaki Muto, economist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center Co.
“Data measuring manufacturing activity in overseas economies shows we are in the middle of an expansionary phase. Exports will continue to support Japan’s economy.”
Exports slowed in September due to weaker growth in shipments of cars, semiconductors, and electronic parts, data from the finance ministry showed.
Exports were also hit by a decline in shipments of TVs, audio equipment, and ships, the data showed.
However, other data from other Asian economies shows demand for electronics remains strong.
Asia’s technology-producing economies have gained a big boost this year from improved global demand for electronics products and components such as semiconductors.
South Korea and Taiwan, posted stronger-than-expected shipments in September, boosted by continued strong global demand for memory and processing chips. China’s export growth also picked up in the month.
In volume terms, Japan’s exports rose 4.8 percent in September from a year ago, following a 10.4 percent annual increase in August.
Exports to the United States rose 11.1 percent in September from a year earlier due to an increase in shipments of semiconductor manufacturing equipment and pharmaceuticals. This compares with a 21.8 percent annual increase in the previous month.
Japan’s trade surplus with the United States rose 5.1 percent in September from a year ago to 616.6 billion yen ($5.46 billion).
The United States is calling for Japan to enter bilateral trade negotiations to lower its trade deficit, so Japan’s surplus with the United States could become a source of friction.
China-bound exports rose 29.3 percent year-on-year in September, faster than a 25.8 percent annual increase in August, as Japan shipped more electronics.
Imports rose 12.0 percent in the year to September, versus the median estimate for a 15.0 percent annual increase.
The trade balance came to a surplus of 670.2 billion yen, versus the median estimate for a 559.8 billion yen surplus.
Other recent data pointed to a pick-up in capital expenditure and a tentative turnaround in consumer spending, which suggests that Japan’s growth streak will continue due to domestic and external demand.
($1 = 112.9100 yen)
Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Sam Holmes