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Japan's exports fell for a 12th straight month in September from a year earlier, official data showed, as the yen's gains undermined export prices, but a rising volume of shipments points to a tentative sign of pickup in global demand.
The data will be followed later this week by other indicators including September's household spending which is expected to underscore weakness in private consumption - which constitutes about 60 percent of the economy.
The data will be scrutinized by the Bank of Japan at its Oct. 31-Nov. 1 policy meeting, where it issues new economic and price forecasts. The central bank is expected to hold off from expanding stimulus after having just revamped its policy framework last month, sources say.
Ministry of Finance data issued on Monday showed Japan's exports fell 6.9 percent in September from a year earlier, following a 9.6 percent decline in August, dragged down by U.S.-bound shipments of cars, China-bound shipments of electronics parts and exports of steel.
The result is a little less gloomy than the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists for a 10.4 percent fall as the yen's 16 percent gains versus the dollar from a year earlier hurt the value of shipments.
By destination, exports to China - Japan's largest trading partner - fell 10.6 percent in September from a year earlier, marking the seventh straight month of annual declines.
Shipments to Asia, which accounts for more than half of Japanese exports, fell 8.4 percent, posting the 13th straight month of falls.
U.S.-bound exports fell 8.7 percent, posting a seventh straight declining month, while exports to European Union rose 0.7 percent, the first increase in five months.
Export volumes, however, rose 4.7 percent in the year to September, up for a second straight month in a sign of gradual pickup in global demand, the MOF data showed.
Imports fell 16.3 percent in the year to September, broadly in line with the economists' median estimate, reflecting the yen's gains, declines in oil prices from a year earlier, and sluggish domestic demand.
The trade balance swung to a surplus of 498.3 billion yen ($4.80 billion), versus the median estimate of a 341.8 billion yen surplus.
Japan's economy expanded an annualized 0.7 percent in April-June, slowing sharply from the prior quarter's growth led by leap year effects, as exports and capital spending fell.
Economists polled by Reuters expect growth to hold largely steady for the remainder of the year.