TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's exports expanded for a sixth straight month in May as brisk global demand for cars and high-tech products helped shore up a recovery in the world's second-largest economy.
The finance ministry said Thursday that exports rose 32.1 percent from a year earlier to 5.3 trillion yen ($59 billion), marking the sixth month of year-on-year increase.
Growth in exports is vital to Japan's economy as exports alone account for 10 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.
"Overseas demand for Japanese goods remains steady in line with a recovery in the global economy," said Hideki Matsumura, an economist at Japan Research Institute.
"Strong global demand for Japanese cars and high-tech goods such as computers and flat-panel TVs shows the global economy has hit the bottom," he said.
Robust global demand, particularly in Asia, is supporting growth in Japanese exports and fueling an economic recovery. Japan recently upgraded its growth forecast to 2.6 percent in the current fiscal year thanks to an upturn in exports.
Among key regions, Japan's exports to Asia jumped 34.4 percent in May, marking the seventh consecutive month of year-on-year increase. Asia-bound shipments alone accounted for nearly 60 percent of Japan's total exports in the month.
Japan's auto exports to Asia expanded 56 percent while steel shipments to the region soared 78.8 percent in May.
Japan's exports to China also rose 25.3 percent, lifted by rising demand for cars and steel products.
Meanwhile, the country's exports to the United States grew 17.7 percent on recovering demand for cars. U.S.-bound auto exports rose 23.4 percent in May, with auto parts shipments to the United States up 40 percent.
Japanese exports to the European Union rose 17.4 percent last month.
Imports in May grew 33.4 percent to 5.0 trillion yen, resulting in a trade surplus of 324 billion yen.