The shortfall of 1.29 trillion yen ($12.6 billion) reported today by the Ministry of Finance in Tokyo compared with the 1.35 trillion yen median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 32 economists. Exports climbed 18.4 percent, as shipments to China bounced back from a year earlier.
A record run of monthly deficits shows the cost of the yen’s slide against the dollar and the extra energy imports needed because of the nuclear industry shutdown that followed a disaster in 2011. The government is trying to sustain momentum in the world’s third-biggest economy as analysts forecast a one-quarter contraction in April-to-June next year, when the tax increases.
“The deficit will shrink from April as exports (JNTBEXPY) will accelerate and the temporary boost to imports from demand ahead of the sales-tax hike will fade,” said Akiyoshi Takumori, chief economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.
The run of 17 monthly deficits is the longest in comparable data back to 1979.
Japan’s currency, weakened by central bank easing, slid to a five-year low of 103.92 against the dollar last week. The yen fell 0.2 percent to 102.88 as of 9:39 a.m. in Tokyo, while the Topix stock index climbed 0.8 percent.
Exports to China increased 33.1 percent from a year earlier when the two nations were embroiled in a spat over islands in the East China Sea. Shipments to the U.S. rose 21.2 percent, while those to the European Union climbed 19.4 percent.
Imports of petroleum and liquefied natural gas climbed 34.9 percent and 37.4 percent, respectively, from a year earlier, while shipments to Japan of electrical machinery gained 22.6 percent.
“Imports are surging due to the purchase of smartphone and tablet devices as well as last-minute demand ahead of April’s sales-tax increase,” Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo, said before the report.
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