By Minami Funakoshi
TOKYO - Japan's exports rose in April to mark the fifth straight month of gains, an encouraging sign that more robust overseas demand could underpin a steady economic recovery.
Exports rose 7.5 percent in April from a year ago, below the median estimate of 7.8 percent annual growth, finance ministry data showed on Monday. It followed a 12.0 percent rise in March.
The data also showed Japan's trade surplus with the United States narrowed.
Japan's exports are expected to continue rising as global economic growth gains momentum, but concerns about U.S. President Donald Trump's pledges to adopt protectionist trade policies cloud the outlook for export-reliant Japan.
The drop in Japan's trade surplus with the United States, however, could take some pressure off Japan as it makes it more difficult for Trump to justify criticizing Japan for its trade practices.
Exports to the United States increased 2.6 percent in April from a year ago, rising for the third straight month. But Japan's trade surplus with the United States fell 4.2 percent in April from a year ago to 586.7 billion yen ($5.27 billion).
Imports surged 15.1 percent versus the median estimate for a 14.8 percent increase.
April's trade balance was a surplus of 481.7 billion yen ($4.33 billion), versus the median estimate for a 521 billion yen surplus.
(Reporting by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Eric Meijer)