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Japan posts first annual trade deficit in 31 years

 Factory worker checking an assembled Prius hybrid vehicle

TOKYO —

Japan announced its first annual trade deficit for more than 30 years on Wednesday after the March quake-tsunami and strong yen hit exports for 2011, and high fuel costs pushed up import bills. The first calendar-year deficit in goods since 1980 came to 2.49 trillion yen, the finance ministry said.

“Exports fell 2.7% from the previous year as automobiles, semiconductors and other electronic components fell,” the ministry said in a report on the figures.

“Imports rose 12% as crude oil, natural liquefied gas (LNG) and other items grew.”

Resource-poor Japan has had to import more energy supplies in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster as atomic power stations have been taken offline and fossil fuel plants have had to make up the difference.

Crude oil imports soared 21.3% by value, LNG was up 37.5% and petrochemical products up 39.5%, while automobile exports fell 10.6%, with electronic parts down 14.2%.

In total, 2011 imports stood at 68.05 trillion yen while exports were 65.55 trillion yen.

The deficit with China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, was more than five times that of 2010.

Japan recorded a trade surplus with the European Union, but it was down 31.3% on 2010.

For December alone the deficit stood at 205 billion yen, the third monthly deficit in a row, with exports falling 8% year-on-year to 5.62 trillion yen and imports rising 8.1% to 5.83 trillion yen.

It was the 24th consecutive month of rising imports, and the monthly figures were worse than economists had expected.

A survey of economists by Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei business daily had shown them predicting an average December deficit of 150.5 billion yen.

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2012 by in General News Stories.
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