Tuesday, July 10, 2012

japan: machine orders drop, current account surplus shrinks 63%

bloomberg | Japan’s current-account surplus was the smallest for the month of May since at least 1985 and machinery orders fell the most in more than a decade.

The excess in the widest measure of trade shrank 63 percent from a year earlier to 215.1 billion yen ($2.7 billion), the Ministry of Finance said in Tokyo today. The median estimate of 24 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a surplus of 493.1 billion yen. Machinery orders, an indicator of capital spending, fell 14.8 percent in May from the previous month, the Cabinet Office said, the biggest drop since 2001.

Japan’s trade position has weakened due to growing energy imports after last year’s earthquake and nuclear meltdown and also the yen’s gain of 4.9 percent against the dollar since mid- March. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave approval for a restart of reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant, which resumed power generation last week, to avoid power shortages and rolling blackouts over the summer.

“Today’s machinery order drop is very large, and it may be a signal that Japanese companies are becoming cautious about investment” amid concern about a global economic slowdown, said Hiroaki Muto, a senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo. “Though exports have been slumping, we don’t expect Japan to have any major trade deficit.”

The yen traded at 79.73 against the dollar as of 2:32 p.m. in Tokyo. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) slid 1.2 percent. Tokyo Electron Ltd. (8035) fell 5.8 percent after the company last week said orders in April-June period fell 28 percent.

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