Japan's exports rose in April to mark their fifth straight month of gains, as shipments of semiconductors and steel expanded, signalling that more robust overseas demand could underpin a steady economic recovery.
Exports rose 7.5 percent in April from a year ago, below the median estimate of 7.8 percent annual growth, finance ministry data showed on Monday. It followed a 12.0 percent rise in March.
The data also showed Japan's trade surplus with the United States narrowed. Exports to the United States increased 2.6 percent in April from a year ago, gaining for the third straight month due to larger shipments of cars and auto parts. But Japan's trade surplus with the United States fell 4.2 percent in April from a year ago to 586.7 billion yen ($5.27 billion).
Japan's exports are expected to continue rising as global economic growth gains momentum, but concerns about U.S. President Donald Trump's pledges to adopt protectionist trade policies cloud the outlook for export-reliant Japan.
"Japan's exports will continue growing, and imports will probably also rise as domestic production picks up," said Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities.
The drop in Japan's trade surplus with the United States, however, could take some pressure off Japan as it makes it more difficult for Trump to justify criticising Japan for its trade practices.
Japan's economy grew in the first quarter at the fastest rate in a year to mark the longest period of expansion in a decade, thanks to solid exports and a helpful boost from private consumption.
In terms of volume, exports rose 4.1 percent in April from a year ago, the third consecutive month of gains, another sign of overseas demand picking up.
Exports to China rose 14.8 percent on-year in April, the sixth straight month of gains, boosted by shipments of optical equipment, auto parts and steel.