Business / Economy

Japan's trade deficit widened in November, with oil imports up and phone-related Asia exports down

Kyodo

Japan saw a widening goods trade deficit in November as the cost of oil imports surged while smartphone-related exports to Asia plummeted, government data showed Wednesday.

The country logged a deficit of ¥737.3 billion with the rest of the world, the second straight month of red ink following a revised ¥450.1 billion deficit in October.

Imports rose 12.5 percent from a year earlier to ¥7.66 trillion. Unrefined oil made the largest contribution, surging on the back of an earlier rise in global market valuations.

A recent fall in oil prices has yet to be reflected in those imports that have cleared customs, with the Finance Ministry using such goods to compile the monthly report on trade figures, an official said.

Meanwhile, exports only managed to edge up 0.1 percent to ¥6.93 trillion amid a slowdown in demand for smartphones in Asia.

“Exports to Asia have been slowing since the start of the year, before the United States and China began their trade war, so this is likely a result of a slowdown in the Chinese economy itself,” said Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

“The trade war hasn’t had a large impact on Japan yet, but depending on which way U.S.-China negotiations go, we could begin seeing some negative effects from next year.”

Among exported items that logged the biggest declines were South Korea-bound chip manufacturing machinery and liquid crystal displays going to China, while there was increased demand from the Bahamas for tankers.

By region, Japan’s deficit with its largest trading partner, China, rose to ¥503.1 billion as imports of personal computers and smartphones grew.

Against the whole of Asia, Japan had a shrinking surplus of ¥165.9 billion.

Japan had a surplus of ¥623.4 billion against the United States, although growth in imports such as corn used as animal feed outpaced a modest rise in exports including aircraft engines. Exports of automobiles and car parts to the United States fell.

Against the European Union, Japan’s deficit grew to ¥138.2 billion amid an increase in imports of German automobiles and medicine from Ireland.