According to data released today by the Japanese Ministry of Finance, exports rose 2.0 percent year-on-year in December, after declining 4.2 percent in November.

Growth still fell short of expectations, with economists expecting 2.4 percent growth in a forecast compiled by news agency Bloomberg.

Imports, on the other hand, fell by 11.6 per cent instead of the expected 13.9 per cent.

In November, imports fell by 11.1 per cent year-on-year.

- Export growth for the first time in a long time is a small relief, but we are still far from brightening the outlook.

China alone will hardly be able to keep Japanese exports growing, Takeshi Minami, an economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute, tells Bloomberg news agency.

The trade surplus rose to 751 billion yen in December from 366.1 billion yen a year earlier, with a surplus of 930.5 billion yen expected.