Japan Dec exports rise 9.3 pct year/year - MOF

TOKYO, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Japan's exports rose 9.3 percent in December from a year earlier, Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed on Wednesday, underscoring a steady growth in external demand. The rise compares with a 10.1 percent increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll. It followed a 16.2 percent gain in the previous month. Imports rose 14.9 percent in December, versus the median estimate for a 12.3 percent annual increase. The trade balance came to a surplus of 359.0 billion yen ($3.26 billion), versus the median estimate for a 530.0 billion yen surplus. For more background, see this PREVIEW To view full tables, go to the MOF website: http://www.customs.go.jp/toukei/info/indexte.htm ($1 = 110.1400 yen)

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)