TOKYO (AP) - Japanese exports to the U.S. in April declined for the first time in more than two years, the Ministry of Finance said Thursday, signaling weaker demand for Japanese products from American consumers.
At the same time, an increase in U.S. airplane and grain imports contributed to a 18.6 percent drop in Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. in April to 654.17 billion yen ($5.38 billion). It was the first contraction in the bilateral trade gap since December.
Exports to the U.S. fell 4.8 percent, the first decline since January 2005, due largely to declining shipments of automobiles, construction and mining gear, and electronic imaging equipment, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Japan's global trade surplus jumped 51.8 percent from a year ago to 926.68 billion yen ($7.62 billion) in April, fueled by growing exports to Asia. Shipments of steel, automobiles and telecommunications equipment were especially strong, the ministry said.
The increase beat the 47.4 percent rise forecast by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.
Overall, Japanese exports rose 8.3 percent while imports rose 3.5 percent.
Japan's trade deficit with China shrank 9.8 percent to 332.29 billion yen ($2.73 billion) on increased exports of telecom gear and organic compounds.
Higher steel exports helped lift the country's trade surplus with Asia 42.4 percent to 665.96 billion yen ($5.48 billion), the ministry said.
Japan's trade surplus with the European Union also rose, lifted 12.7 percent to 419.6 billion yen ($3.45 billion) on strong automobile and motorcycle exports.