TOKYO -- Japan's exports recorded their first on-year drop for 22 months in September, after a major typhoon crippled the main airport in the west of the country and the trade war between Washington and Beijing affected exports to China.
Monthly exports totaled 6.726 trillion yen ($60 billion), down 1.2% on the same month last year and marking the first drop since November 2016, according to data released Thursday by the Ministry of Finance.
The biggest drag on shipments was caused by the closure of Kansai International Airport in Osaka, a production hub for electronics manufacturers. The airport was flooded by a typhoon that hit western Japan on Sept. 4, holding up significant amounts of air cargo for weeks.
Exports through the airport fell by 58% to 233.6 billion yen, according to the ministry.
On Sept. 6, a major earthquake struck the northern prefecture of Hokkaido, causing a 1.9% drop in exports from the region to 28.5 billion yen.
By destination, exports to China dropped 1.7% to 1.262 trillion yen, as shipments of components for semiconductors and smartphones fell. This was the first decline since October 2016, excluding February this year, when exports were affected by the Lunar New Year holiday.
Exports to the U.S. slipped 0.2% to 1.294 trillion yen, reflecting slower shipments of machinery and auto components. Steel shipments recorded the fifth straight month of decline following the U.S. imposition of 25% duties on steel and 10% on aluminum in March.
A recovery is expected in the coming months as operations have resumed at Kansai Airport. But its pace will likely be restrained, as global growth is slowing on the back of the ongoing trade war, said Toru Suehiro, an economist at Mizuho Securities.
The country's overall trade balance came to a surplus of 139.6 billion yen in September.
This was the first trade surplus in three months, beating private-sector median forecasts of a 52.8 billion yen trade deficit, which were compiled by Quick. But the size of the surplus shrank 78.7% from a year earlier.
The narrowing of the surplus in part reflected rising crude oil prices, which boosted the value of imports.
Japan's imports rose for the sixth consecutive month, increasing 7.0% to 6.587 trillion yen.
Imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia and liquefied natural gas from Australia posted particularly strong growth. Yen-denominated import unit prices for crude oil surged 49.7%.
As a result, the trade surplus with the U.S. decreased 4.0% to 590 billion yen, marking the third straight month of decline, as imports rose 3.1% on growth of petroleum and LNG.
Japan's trade deficit with China totaled 370 billion yen.
Mitsuru Obe contributed to this report.