Japanese container trade shows signs of improvement

Japanese container trade shows signs of improvement

Indices based on a survey of major Japanese companies provide a view into economic sentiment in the country.

Indices measuring the health of Japan’s import and export container trade improved in the first quarter of 2017 from the fourth quarter of 2016.

The index for containerized exports rose to three compared with one in the fourth quarter, while the index for imports improved to negative four compared with negative six in the preceding quarter, according to Nittsu Research Institute and Consulting Inc. (NRIC), a subsidiary of Nippon Express, Japan’s largest international freight forwarder.

The indices track the cargo movements of individual industries and are dubbed the “transport tankan,” after the Bank of Japan’s closely watched “tankan” quarterly survey of business sentiment.

The transport tankan covers about 2,500 major Japanese manufacturing and wholesale companies that respond to survey questions from NRIC that serve as the basis of the indices.

The index for containerized exports in the first quarter of 2017, for example, represents the percentage of Japanese companies saying their exports increased in the minus those saying their exports decreased.

NRIC received replies from 985 companies in the latest transport tankan survey, or 39.4 percent of the approximately 2,500 companies the research firm sent questionnaires.

The latest transport tankan survey also showed that Japanese companies are slightly optimistic about growth in the second quarter.

Although 20 percent of companies polled said that they will boost their exports in the April-to-June quarter from a year earlier, 16 percent said that they will reduce their exports. As for imports, 16 percent of companies polled said that they will import more in the next quarter, while 19 percent said they will import less.

Encouragingly for exports, the only index in negative territory in the first quarter was for the transport machinery industry at negative seven, the same level recorded in the fourth quarter of 2016.

At 25, the index for the pulp and paper industry was the highest among the 14 manufacturing and wholesale industries covered by the transport tankan survey, followed by that for the food and drink industry, which stood at 20.

By export market, the index for Asia stood at four in the January-March period, the same reading as in the preceding quarter. The latest reading comes as 20 percent of firms polled said that they boosted their exports to Asia, while 16 percent said that they reduced their exports to Asia.

The index for North America came to minus four, an improvement from minus six in the preceding quarter. The index for Europe came to minus 5, up from minus 12 in the preceding quarter.

The indexes for half of the 14 industries covered by the transport tankan survey on the import side were in negative territory in the first quarter of 2017, with the index for general machinery the lowest, at minus 19.

By import source, the index for Asia stood at minus three in the January-to-March period, unchanged from the preceding quarter. The index for North America came to minus 10, also unchanged from the preceding quarter. The index for Europe declined to minus 14 from minus 9.

Contact Tomoo Yatsuhashi at yiu45535@nifty.com.