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Repeats Story Initially Transmitted at 09:18 GMT Dec 15/04:18 EST Dec 15
     TOKYO (MNI) - Japan's trade balance is expected to post the first deficit
in six months in November as the pace of imports outpaced that of exports,
reflecting the release of the popular iPhone X last month.
     The Ministry of Finance will release November trade statistics at 0850 JST
Monday (2350 GMT Sunday).
     Exports are expected to rise 14.6% on year in November, which would be the
12th straight year-on-year increase, after +14.0% in October, led by strong
global demand for Japanese automobiles, electronic devices and general
machinery, according to the median forecast of an MNI survey.
     Imports are expected to rise 18.8% on year in November, which would be the
11th year-on-year gain, after +18.9% in October, according to the MNI survey
median. 
     Retail sales fell in October due to bad weather. Sales of consumer
electronics also dipped as many consumers waited for the November release of the
iPhone X instead of buying the iPhone 8 that went on sale  in September.
     MOF data show that the increase in imports for the first 20 days of
November was led by communications equipment (mostly smartphones in recent
trade) and a higher value for crude oil imports due to price increases, even
though volumes were lower).
     The November trade balance is projected to be in deficit by Y56.5 billion,
according to the MNI median, with the economist forecasts ranging from a deficit
of Y313.1 billion to a surplus of Y224.5 billion.
     It would be first red ink in six months following a surplus of Y284.6
billion in October and a surplus of Y146.5 billion in November 2016.
     Economist do not expect domestic demand to rise sharply enough to cause a
persistent trade deficit in Japan.
     "Consensus forecasts by economists tend to be in line with actual figures.
But sometimes there is an increase in shipments in the last 10 days of the
month. A trade deficit in the first 20 days does not always mean the whole month
balance will be a deficit," a MOF official cautioned.
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-4670-5309; email: max.sato@marketnews.com
--MNI BEIJING Bureau; +1 202-371-2121; email: john.carter@mni-news.com