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Japan trade deficit hits record on weak exports

TOKYO -- Japan's trade deficit ballooned to a record in the first half of the year as exports fell further in June, data showed Thursday, ramping up pressure on the central bank to unveil fresh measures to boost the economy.

The figures come days after the government cut its fiscal year growth forecasts, blaming weak exports and a jump in imports as well as the negative impact of an April sales tax hike on consumer spending and business confidence.

Japan has seen widening trade deficits since the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011 forced it to switch off its atomic reactors and turn to pricey fossil fuel imports to plug the energy gap.

The price of imports has surged thanks to a slide in the yen since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged in late 2012 to launch a spending and monetary easing drive to kick-start growth and defeat deflation.

However, the weaker yen — which has lost about a fifth of its value against the dollar since late 2012 — has not had the desired effect on exports, leading to ever-widening trade gaps.

Thursday's data from the finance ministry showed the country logged a record 7.60 trillion yen (US$74.7 billion) deficit for the first six months of the year, expanding 58 percent from a year earlier.

The half-year figures were released with June data that showed the monthly deficit more than quadrupled to 822.2 billion yen from 180.5 billion yen a year earlier and blowing past market expectations of 684.7 billion yen.

Japan has now logged 24 consecutive monthly trade deficits.

Last month, exports fell 2.0 percent year on year to 5.94 trillion yen while imports rose 8.4 percent to 6.76 trillion yen.

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Shipping containers are moved at a port in Tokyo on Thursday, July 24.

(AFP)

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