Japan's overall exports fell for the seventh consecutive month in April on a year-on-year basis, tumbling 39.1 percent to $44 billion, according to preliminary figures released by the Finance Ministry on Wednesday.
But the deep slump in Japanese exports in the wake of the global financial crisis that erupted last autumn is easing as the pace of decline slowed for the second consecutive month in April.
The world's second-biggest economy, which relies heavily on exports for growth, posted its steepest contraction since the end of World War II in the January-March quarter, shrinking 15.2 percent on an annualized basis.
The year-on-year drop in Japan's overall exports in April was led by automobiles, which fell 67.8 percent by value. Auto parts fell 38.7 percent, and steel dropped 36.7 percent.
The decline in Japanese shipments of automobiles -- Japan's largest single export item -- slowed a bit after plummeting 70.9 percent in February.
Meanwhile, Japan's overall imports decreased for the sixth successive month in April, plunging 35.8 percent from a year earlier to $43.3 billion. Imports of crude oil fell 59.1 percent; nonferrous metals were down 69.6 percent, and liquefied natural gas dropped 35.6 percent in terms of value.
As a result, Japan posted a trade surplus of $723 million in April, down 85 percent from the same month of last year. It was the third consecutive monthly trade surplus.
Japan's exports to the United States fell for 20 months running in April, plummeting 46.3 percent year on year to $6.9 billion, while its imports from the U.S. fell for seven months in succession, nose-diving 29.3 percent to $4.8 billion.
As a result, Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. narrowed for 20 months in a row, shrinking 65.1 percent to $2.1 billion in April.
The decline in Japan's imports from the U.S. was led by grains, motors and electronic parts, including semiconductors.
Contact Hisane Masaki at firstname.lastname@example.org.