November trade deficit third-worst on record

Kyodo

The nation’s trade deficit stood at ¥953.4 billion for November, the third-biggest on record, as exports to China and Europe continued to shrink amid the global economic downturn, the government said Wednesday.

The deficit for the fifth straight month was slightly below market forecasts but also the largest for any November, marking a 37.9 percent rise from a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report. It began recording comparable data in 1979.

Overall exports fell 4.1 percent to ¥4.9839 trillion, the sixth straight monthly decline, on slower exports of ships, automobiles and construction machinery. Imports grew 0.8 percent to ¥5.9373 trillion, the first increase in two months, affected by products such as smartphones and liquefied petroleum gas.

Exports to China slipped 14.5 percent to ¥858.7 billion, the sixth straight monthly fall, amid anti-Japan sentiment over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea. Slower growth in the Chinese economy also weighed on exports.

The shipment of vehicles to Japan’s biggest trading partner fell as fast as 68.6 percent and auto parts 43.5 percent. The results are affecting Japan’s manufacturers.

Imports from China grew 5.8 percent to ¥1.4062 trillion. The trade balance with the country came to a deficit of ¥547.5 billion, the biggest for the month of November.

Naohiko Baba, chief economist at Goldman Sachs Japan Co., said the Japanese trade balance would remain in deficit: “The global economy is still fragile. In addition, as the anti-Japan movement in China will keep affecting them, exports will remain sluggish for the time being.”

With the European Union, exports fell 19.9 percent to ¥501.6 billion and the deficit with the 27-nation bloc stood at a record-high ¥126.4 billion on deteriorating business and consumer sentiment because of the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. By product, ships to Britain, automobiles to Germany and construction and mining machinery to Belgium were significantly lower.

Exports to the United States were up 5.3 percent to ¥933.8 billion, expanding for the 13th straight month, on the robustness of automobiles and lithium-ion batteries. Shipments to the world’s biggest economy topped those to China for the first time in 10 months. The balance was at a surplus of ¥453.8 billion.