Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Japan's May trade deficit jumps to US$11.5b

TOKYO - Japan logged a bigger-than-expected trade deficit of about US$11.5 billion in May as the nation's energy costs soared, official data showed Wednesday.

The 907.3-billion-yen shortfall marked a record deficit for the month of May and was 5.4 per cent higher than the 860.7-billion-yen deficit in May 2011.

It was also well above the 520-billion-yen deficit expected by economists.

The trade figures come as Japan struggles to meet its energy needs, turning to pricey fossil fuel alternatives after its nuclear reactors were switched off in the wake of last year's atomic crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Imports jumped 9.3 per cent to 6.14-trillion-yen from a year earlier, largely due to rising purchases of foreign oil and gas.

Exports, meanwhile, rose 10.0 per cent to 5.23 trillion yen as shipments of automobiles and auto parts soared.

However, Tokyo posted its first-ever monthly trade deficit with the European Union since records started in 1979, as demand from the continent suffered. Europe is a major market for Japanese products.

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