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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Japan Trade Surplus Narrows

This is hard to interpret, but it does seem that we have here more evidence of an investment slowdown in China (as well of course of a decrease of the rate of growth in US consumption), and Japan is one of the first to feel all of this. Now we have to watch for Germany. Note that many commentators are asking for domestic consumption to take the strain, and that doesn't sound at all realistic to me.

Japan's trade surplus narrowed more than expected as U.S. demand cooled, signaling the impetus that exports gave to economic growth last quarter is fading.

The trade surplus fell 24.8 percent to 614.7 billion yen ($5.2 billion) in October from a year earlier, the Ministry of Finance said today in Tokyo. The median forecast of 33 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a surplus of 770 billion yen.

Demand for Japanese exports is cooling after the country's largest export market grew at the slowest pace in more than three years. Waning overseas demand leaves the world's second-largest economy more reliant on its consumers, who reined in spending last quarter, to sustain the longest expansion since 1945. Exports rose 11.6 percent, the slowest growth in six months.

Growth in exports to the U.S. slowed to 13.5 percent in October, after climbing 20.5 percent a month earlier, as demand for automobiles cooled. Shipments to the European Union grew 8.7 percent, slower than the 14.2 percent growth in September. Exports to China expanded 18.4 percent after climbing 19.7 percent the previous month.

Exports measured by volume, which don't take into account price fluctuations, grew 2.2 percent, the slowest since August 2005.

Demand for transportation equipment and electronics, which together make up almost half of Japan's exports, waned last month. Exports of transportation equipment, which include cars, trucks and automobile parts, rose 17 percent from 21 percent in September, the report said. Electronics shipments grew 7.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent.

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