Japan's exports jumped in July from a year earlier at the fastest pace almost three years in a sign that a recovery in overseas demand and the often-touted benefits of a weak yen are finally starting to take hold.
However, the trade balance was in deficit for the 13th consecutive month in July, as imports surged by the most in three years due to the weak yen and rising oil prices, that have made Japan's energy imports ever more expensive.
Almost all of Japan's nuclear reactors have remained idle since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, putting extra pressure on the energy import bill.
The 12.2 percent increase in exports in the year to July was less than the median estimate for a 13.1 percent annual increase, but economists took the data positively as exports to the United States, China and Europe all accelerated.
"We expect exports to continue to recover," said Hiroaki Muto, senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co.