Japan's exports up 45 percent in February

TOKYO: Japan's exports climbed sharply in February, as a solidifying global recovery fueled the world's appetite for cars, machinery and gadgets.

Exports jumped 45.3 percent from a year earlier to 5.13 trillion yen ($56.7 billion), marking the third straight month of year-on-year increase, the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Car shipments surged 117 percent, while electronic machinery exports climbed 46 percent. General machinery rose 31.5 percent.

The figures confirm that government stimulus efforts around the globe have helped spur demand for Japanese products and are underpinning the country's recovery. But it is Asia in particular that is driving the world's second-biggest economy, which now sends more than half its exports to the rest of the booming continent.

Asia-bound exports jumped 56 percent from a year earlier to 2.78 trillion yen ($30.7 billion), according to the Ministry of Finance's monthly report. The figure reflects an expected slowdown from January, when shipments soared 68 percent. The Lunar New Year holidays fell in February this year, effectively trimming one business week from the month.

Shipments to China, Japan's single biggest trading partner, rose nearly 48 percent.

The data also showed encouraging numbers from the U.S., Japan's second biggest overseas market. Although exports to the U.S. had been lackluster, they shot up 50 percent to 837 billion yen ($9.3 billion). Car shipments more than doubled, and electrical machinery exports rose 38 percent.

The U.S. outlook is unclear, however, as Toyota Motor Corp. faces ongoing questions about its quality and credibility following a series of massive recalls.

"This export recovery was a long time in coming, but with auto recalls in the U.S. still a concern, we will be watching whether this recovery momentum can be sustained," said Yuriko Tanaka, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo.

Also clouding Japan's prospects is a stagnant economy at home, despite the export recovery. The country remains threatened by deflation, a strong yen and weak demand after emerging last year from its worst recession since World War II.

Exports to Western Europe were up 20 percent, and those to the Middle East rose 19 percent.

Imports climbed 29.5 percent to 4.48 trillion yen, resulting in a trade surplus of 651 billion yen.