• Kyodo

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Japan posted a goods trade deficit of ¥40.7 billion in May for the first red ink in four months, the government said Monday, with the balance weighed down by sluggish exports amid a slowdown in overseas economies.

The value of exports dropped 11.3 percent from a year earlier to ¥5.09 trillion, down for the eighth straight month, led by declines in steel exports to the United States as well as smaller shipments of semiconductors and other electronic parts.

Imports plunged 13.8 percent to ¥5.13 trillion for the 17th consecutive monthly fall, as the value of crude oil imports plunged 30.6 percent, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The deficit compares to a deficit of ¥215.3 billion a year earlier.

In addition to weakening demand for steel and other materials, exports of electronic components declined as global demand for smartphones has waned, a ministry official said.

Shunsuke Kobayashi, an economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research, said recent increases in resource prices such as crude oil are also likely to reduce Japan’s trade surplus, though a firming yen reduces import prices to some extent.

“As the effects of rising resource prices will continue to emerge from next month, the phase of declining resource prices lifting the trade surplus has ended,” Kobayashi said.

In the reporting month, the yen climbed 8.8 percent from the previous year to an average 108.97 per U.S. dollar.

Exports to China, a major destination for Japanese products, shed 14.9 percent to ¥901.9 billion for the third consecutive monthly decline, while imports from the country declined 9.7 percent to ¥1.3 trillion, down for a second month.

Japan’s shipments to the United States decreased 10.7 percent to ¥969.8 billion for the third straight monthly decline, while imports fell 8.5 percent to ¥624.2 billion, also down for three consecutive months.

Exports to the European Union declined 4 percent to ¥577.8 billion for the first decline in four months and imports slipped 1.5 percent to ¥651.4 billion for a third monthly decrease.

The figures were measured on a customs-cleared basis.

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