Japan's Trade Balance Returns to Deficit as Exports Disappoint

Japan’s trade balance returned to a deficit in November, maintaining a trend that has persisted since the nation’s energy bill soared after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

  • The deficit was 379.7 billion yen ($3.1 billion), following a surplus the previous month.
  • Economists had forecast a shortfall of 449.7 billion yen.
  • Exports fell 3.3 percent from the previous year, the biggest drop since December 2012. The decline was led by steel and organic chemicals.
  • Shipments to China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, fell 8.1 percent.
  • Imports dropped 10.2 percent, declining for an 11th straight month.

The balance has been negative for 49 of 57 months since the 2011 earthquake devastated a nuclear power plant and prompted Japan to shut down its remaining atomic reactors. The trade data remains a weak spot in an economy that has produced enough encouraging signs in recent weeks for economists to forecast that the central bank won’t change policy at board meeting Friday.

“Export volume has been struggling to rise and there’s still lingering concerns over a slowdown in emerging nations. Given that, it’s difficult to foresee a steady rebound in exports, ” Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities Co. In Tokyo, said before the data was released. “There’s no solid driving force for the economy because exports as well as domestic spending by consumers and companies may struggle to rise.”

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