TOKYO, April 17 (Reuters) - Japan's exports grew 7.3% year-on-year in March, up for the fourth straight month, Ministry of Finance data showed on Wednesday.

The reading compared with a 7.0% increase seen in a Reuters poll of economists and followed a 7.8% gain in the previous month.

Imports fell 4.9% in the year to March, versus a decline of 4.7% expected and a 0.5% gain in February.

As a result, the trade balance stood at a surplus of 366.5 billion yen ($2.37 billion), compared with the forecast of 299.9 billion yen. (Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)