Japan Posts $78.3 Billion Trade Deficit in 2012

First Published Thursday, 24th January 2013 12:33 am - © 2013 Dow Jones


TOKYO--Japan's annual trade gap hit a record 6.927 trillion yen ($78.3 billion) last year, the finance ministry said Thursday, highlighting how a strong yen, a territorial dispute with China and surging energy imports took a toll on an economy driven by manufacturers.

The balance of trade in goods for December, released simultaneously by the ministry, came to Y641.5 billion in deficit, mainly reflecting weak exports and rising imports.

The reading for December was worse than a Y548.5 billion gap predicted by economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei, and up 208% from a year earlier. It also marked the sixth consecutive monthly shortfall--the longest run of monthly deficits since 1980.

The latest data may add to pressure on policymakers to keep pumping stimulus into the moribund economy until the global economic recovery gains momentum and exporters feel the full effects of the yen's retreat over the past few months. Japan's economy relies on exports and policy stimulus for growth as deflation and a shrinking population continue to stunt domestic demand.

Last year's trade gap was more than double a Y2.565 trillion deficit in 2011, which represented Japan's first annual red ink since 1980.

The previous yearly record was a Y2.613 trillion shortfall in 1980, when a global oil shock inflated Japan's import bill.

The ministry's annual trade balance figures data back to 1950.

During December, exports fell 5.8% on year to Y5.3 trillion, the finance ministry said, the seventh straight month of decrease. That compared with economists' forecast for a 4.7% decline.

Imports gained 1.9% to Y5.942 trillion, marking the second consecutive monthly gain, the ministry said. Economists had expected a 2.5% increase.

Write to Takashi Nakamichi at takashi.nakamichi@dowjones.com

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