Japan’s trade deficit at US$8.1 billion as exports lag


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 15

Japan recorded a trade deficit of ¥777.5 billion (US$8.1 billion) last month despite the weaker yen as exports of cars and auto parts slipped while energy-related imports surged nearly 12 percent.

It was the eighth consecutive monthly deficit following a record monthly deficit of ¥1.63 trillion in January.

Exports totaled ¥5.28 trillion last month while imports surged to ¥6.06 trillion, Japan’s Ministry of Finance reported yesterday.

Over recent months, the yen’s weakening by about 20 percent against the US dollar has helped export manufacturers but also boosted the cost of purchases of liquefied natural gas and crude oil to make up for electricity shortfalls.

All but two of Japan’s nuclear power plants are operating following the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi plant disaster.

Japan’s trade deficit rose to a record ¥6.93 trillion last year as fuel imports surged and a bitter territorial dispute with China provoked anti-Japanese riots, hammering exports in the world’s No. 2 economy.

The value of natural gas imports rose nearly 10 percent last month from a year earlier, while imports of crude oil jumped 20 percent, the ministry said.

“The data highlight the need for more aggressive easing in Japan from a revamped BOJ [Bank of Japan],” said Chris Tedder, research analyst at Forex.com in Sydney.

The Bank of Japan’s new governor Haruhiko Kuroda yesterday pledged “all-out efforts” to rid Japan of growth-sapping deflation as gloomy new trade data underlined the scale of the task ahead.

The 68-year-old former Asian Development Bank president, who formally took on his new role as governor on Wednesday, was to hold his first official press briefing later yesterday as markets look for signs of policy moves before a regular central bank meeting next month.

On Tuesday, outgoing governor Masaaki Shirakawa acknowledged he had failed to reverse the falling prices that have crimped private spending and corporate investment since the 1990s.

However, he said that easing measures alone would not restore Japan’s former glory, pointing to further the need for deregulation and a reduction in Tokyo’s massive public debt.