Japan registered a ¥520.3 billion trade deficit in April, a record for the month, on growing fuel imports and slowing exports to Europe and Asia amid the eurozone debt crisis, the government said Wednesday.
The deficit in the goods trade balance remained in the red for the second straight month and was the largest for the month of April since comparable data became available in 1979, as the yen’s strength continued to undermine exports.
Analysts, meanwhile, warned they expect the nation to keep logging deficits on the back of rising prices for crude oil and other energy imports, as well as the gloomier economic outlook for Europe and China, Japan’s biggest trading partner.
The value of exports climbed a steep 7.9 percent from a year earlier to ¥5.57 trillion, the second month in a row the figure has risen, mainly due to strong shipments to the United States, whose economy is recovering.
But imports grew at almost the same rate, up 8.0 percent to ¥6.09 trillion — the 28th consecutive monthly increase — on higher crude oil and energy costs while the country’s nuclear reactors remain shuttered.
All figures were measured on a customs-cleared basis.
Exports to the U.S. soared 42.9 percent to ¥958.9 billion, with vehicle shipments expanding more than fourfold year on year as automakers continued their recovery from last year’s quake and Thai flooding.
But while exports to North America rose for the sixth straight month, shipments to Europe and Asia remained sluggish, dropping 1.9 percent to ¥583.1 billion to the European Union and extending their losing streak to seven months.
Analysts attributed the decline to weaker consumer and business sentiments in the 27-state trade bloc amid persistent concerns about the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis and especially Greece’s precarious membership.
Exports to China slipped 7.1 percent to ¥995.4 billion, also the seventh consecutive monthly decline, while those to Asia as a whole declined 2.6 percent to ¥3.03 trillion, the first dip in two months.
The decline is not unconnected, as the economic slowdown in Europe is weighing indirectly on Japanese makers that export components for products to be assembled in Asia and shipped on to Europe.
“The trade balance will keep logging deficits as prices for resources will remain high and the pace of export recovery slow,” Mitsumaru Kumagai, chief economist at Daiwa Institute of Research, said in a report.
“Facing rekindled tensions over the European debt crisis due to the recent general election in Greece, we must remain vigilant over the negative impact” on global trade, Kumagai said.