Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Japan's August trade surplus widened to 743.2 billion yen ($6.5 billion), three times higher than economists predicted, as car and steel shipments jumped and import growth slowed.
Exports rose at more than twice the pace of imports, the Finance Ministry said in Tokyo today, helping the surplus almost quadruple from a year earlier. The median estimate of 37 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for the gap to swell 23 percent to 235.5 billion yen.
Shipments to Europe and Asia rose to records for the month, reflecting increased orders that may help Japan weather a slowdown in the U.S. following the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. Honda Motor Co.'s sales climbed by a third in the first seven months of 2007 as demand from China surged.
``Export demand was solid across all regions,'' said Maiko Noguchi, a senior economist at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. in Tokyo. ``The subprime impact may materialize in coming months so we need to watch developments closely.''
The yen traded at 115.21 per dollar at 10:13 a.m. in London from 114.57 before the report was published.
Exports climbed 14.5 percent in August, faster than July's 11.8 percent, the ministry said. Economists expected growth in shipments to cool to 10.9 percent. Imports rose 5.7 percent, a third of the pace of the previous month, as purchases of aircraft declined compared with a year earlier.
By Lily Nonomiya