TOKYO - Japan's auto exports eased 4.2 percent in February to 372,193 units, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.
It was the first drop in four months. A robust 17.5 percent jump in exports to the United States - to 124,108 units - was not enough to offset drops in shipments to other markets.
The February drop compares against a relatively strong year-earlier month.
In February 1998, exports had risen 13.9 percent on strong shipments to Europe, Oceania, the Middle East, North America and South America.
That broad-based export drive has run out of steam, however. In the latest month, exports fell 67.8 percent to South America, 31.2 percent to Asia, and 22.9 percent to the Middle East.
There were some hints of recovery in the troubled Asian markets. Exports to Thailand rebounded to 2,897 from 834 a year earlier, for the first rise in well over a year. Exports also picked up modestly to the Philippines, Singapore and peninsular Malaysia.
However, shipments to China tumbled to 1,812 units, down from 9,535 a year earlier.