Japan April trade deficit up as energy costs rise

Japan recorded a bigger-than-expected trade deficit in April, official data showed Wednesday, as higher energy costs hiked imports while shipments to China -- its biggest market -- fell from a year ago.

The country posted a monthly deficit of 520.3 billion yen ($6.5 billion), the finance ministry said, up from 477.7 billion yen a year ago and the highest ever for April.

Japan has switched off its nuclear reactors following last year's quake-tsunami disaster, which sparked the worst atomic crisis in a generation and pounded the world's third-largest economy.

The policy has forced the resource-poor nation to turn to pricey fossil fuel alternatives, helping to push up April imports, which rose 8.0 percent to 6.09 trillion yen.

Exports also rose in the period, up 7.9 percent from a year earlier to 5.57 trillion yen, boosted by shipments of automobiles and vehicle parts, with US-bound trade jumping from a year earlier.

The deficit, the second straight year-on-year monthly shortfall, was bigger than analyst expectations of 470 billion yen and Hideki Matsumura, senior economist at the Japan Research Institute, said weakening exports to China were a concern.

Japan had a 274.2 billion yen trade deficit with its Asian neighbour, which overtook it as the world's second-biggest economy in 2010, as exports fell 7.1 percent, the seventh consecutive month of year-on-year drops.

Concerns over China's slowing growth have intensified after a recent slew of weak economic data, including a report that showed output from the country's millions of factories and workshops hit a near three-year low in April.

"Looking forward, the growth in exports will depend on overseas economies... and exports may continue to weaken," Matsumura told Dow Jones Newswires.

Japan saw a trade surplus of 425.8 billion yen with the United States, a 165 percent year-on-year increase as the world's biggest economy mounts a lumbering recovery.

But shipments to debt-hit Europe, another key market for Japanese products, fell 1.9 percent while imports from the continent were 4.2 percent lower.

Analysts have said that high prices for liquefied natural gas and rising imports in Japan, beset by a rapidly ageing population and shrinking manufacturing sector, were likely to generate trade deficits throughout 2012.

On Tuesday, Fitch cut Japan's credit rating, citing its massive public debt, and warned of another possible downgrade if Japan does not hasten its bid to reduce it.

Japan's national debt stands at more than twice its gross domestic product -- the highest such ratio among industrialised nations.

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • What can void a new car warranty? James Deakin - Wheel Power
    What can void a new car warranty?

    "I was denied warranty once for changing my horn!" One very annoyed reader wrote. "I was told that placing a backup camera will void my warranty" said another. The others are best left in my private inbox as Yahoo! have a swear jar in the office that I do not feel like donating this week's pay to. Continue reading → …

  • Docu exposes destruction of PH marine resources VERA Files - The Inbox
    Docu exposes destruction of PH marine resources

    By Kiersnerr Gerwin B. Tacadena, VERA Files “Gutom (hunger),” Sen. Loren Legarda said is what’s in store for the Filipino people if destruction of the country's marine resources is not stopped. Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on Environment and Natural … Continue reading → …

  • ‘Yolanda’ fiberglass boats modern-day Noah’s ark VERA Files - The Inbox
    ‘Yolanda’ fiberglass boats modern-day Noah’s ark

    By Jane Dasal, VERA Files If you want to save the earth, build a boat. That's what a group of environmentalists is saying, especially if you want to save both the forests and fishermen affected by supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan). “Haiyan … Continue reading → …

POLL
Loading...
Poll Choice Options