Japan records first trade surplus since 2012

Japan port cargo terminal Image copyright AFP
Image caption Japan last posted a monthly trade surplus in June 2012.

Japan has recorded its first trade surplus in three years after the weaker yen boosted exports and cheaper oil prices lowered its import bill.

The trade balance came in at 229.3bn yen ($1.9bn; £1.3bn) in March, beating market expectations for a surplus of 44.6bn yen.

Exports rose by 8.5% from a year earlier, while imports fell by 14.5%.

For the fiscal year to March 2015, preliminary data showed Japan logged an overall trade deficit of $9.1tn yen.

Japan's trade balance fell into the red after the March 2011 earthquake and disaster led to the closure of the country's nuclear plants.

Nuclear power used to provide about a third of Japan's energy needs.

To make up for the shortfall, Japan began importing huge amounts of liquefied natural gas, coal and oil. The ballooning energy bill led to Japan's massive trade deficits.

However, a fall in commodity prices has eased the import costs.

Exports have also risen for seven straight months due to Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic policy aimed at weakening the yen, which has led to an increase in overseas sales of cars and machinery.

Marcel Theliant, from Capital Economics, said Japan's trade results were stronger than expected but it was unlikely to last.

"Looking ahead, the rebound in crude oil prices since the start of the year has not been fully reflected in the cost of petroleum imports yet," he said,

"We expect the yen to weaken further in coming months, which should lift the cost of imports by more than the yen-value of exports. The upshot is that the trade balance is unlikely to remain in surplus for long."

More on this story