Japan's exports rose for a fourth straight month in March as a recovering global economy drove demand for the nation's cars and gadgets.
Exports jumped 43.5 percent from a year earlier to 6 trillion yen ($63.5 billion), the government said Thursday.
The figures offer more evidence that robust growth, particularly in Asia, is feeding a turnaround in the world's second-biggest economy, offsetting weak demand and falling prices at home.
Shipments rose worldwide, with those to Asia up almost 53 percent.
Led by a booming China, the region's robust growth has been key in lifting Japanese corporate profits, factory output and business confidence. The International Monetary Fund forecast Wednesday that China's economy — which has overtaken the U.S. to become the biggest market for Japanese exports — would surge 10 percent this year.
Exports to the U.S. grew 30 percent, and those to the European Union rose 27 percent, the finance ministry said.
Overseas shipments of vehicles more than doubled, while electrical machinery exports were up 43 percent.
Global demand fueled Japan's economy to expand at an annualized pace of 3.8 percent in the October-December period and likely led to another strong showing in the first quarter. Economists have been raising their growth forecasts for the period amid emerging signs that export growth is starting to trickle home.
"The possibility that the economy will experience a double-dip (recession) ... in 2010 now appears extremely unlikely," Kyohei Morita, chief Japan economist at Barclays Capital, said in a report this week. "Instead, the focus has shifted to how broadly the recovery will expand."
Still, momentum in Japan's economy lags far behind its neighbors, and it faces a number of risks in the months ahead. The IMF expects Japan's GDP to grow 2 percent this year but warned of deflation, continued excess capacity and a weak labor market. A strong yen could also dampen the contribution of exports to overall growth, it said in its report.
"As a result, the outlook depends crucially on planned fiscal policy support and the global upturn," the IMF said.
Imports rose 20.7 percent, leading to a trade surplus of 948.9 billion yen ($10.2 billion) for the month, according to the finance ministry.
Last fiscal year ended March 31, exports tumbled 17.1 percent to 59 trillion yen, while imports slid 25.2 percent. It posted a trade surplus of 5.23 trillion yen, a reversal from the previous year's deficit.
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