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Japan posted a record current account deficit of ¥172.8 billion in January, with the balance sinking into the red for the first time in 13 years as plummeting exports widened the trade deficit and the yen’s strength trimmed investment returns, the Finance Ministry said Monday.

The current account balance — the broadest gauge of trade — registered the biggest red-ink figure since comparable data became available in January 1985.

The balance last plunged into the red in January 1996, the ministry said in a preliminary report.

The balance of trade in goods and services posted a record deficit of ¥1.1 trillion, with the deficit widening from ¥180.3 billion in January 2008. The balance logged a red-ink figure for the fourth straight month.

The merchandise trade balance saw a deficit of ¥844.4 billion, the biggest since 1985 and incurring a deficit for the third consecutive month, as the speed of decline in exports outpaced that in imports.

Exports fell 46.3 percent to ¥3.282 trillion, down for the fourth month in a row, while imports slipped 31.7 percent to ¥4.127 trillion, down for the third straight month as crude oil prices nose-dived compared with the previous year.

Kyohei Morita, chief economist at Barclays Capital Japan Ltd., said the current account balance incurred a deficit in January due partly to a seasonal factor of plunging exports during the New Year’s holidays, but projected the balance will “slump until July to September” amid the worsening global economy.

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