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William Pesek

Japan Exports Its Way to Irrelevance

Tokyo should follow China's economic example: diversify.
New models needed.

New models needed.

Photographer: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

There's a difference between bad economic news and the devastating variety that Japan received Monday. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might have been able to weather the second-quarter data showing a drop in Japanese consumption and a 1.6 percent decline in annualized growth. But it's not clear his government can recover from the latest news about sputtering exports, which fell 4.4 percent from the previous quarter.

An export boom, after all, was the main thing Abenomics, the prime minister's much-heralded revival program, had going for it. The yen's 35 percent drop since late 2012 made Japanese goods cheaper, companies more profitable and Nikkei stocks more attractive. But China is spoiling the broader strategy. The economy of Japan's biggest customer is slowing precipitously, which has imperiled earnings outlooks for Toyota, Sony, and trading houses like Mitsui.