Japan trade deficit grows in Nov despite lower import costs from plunge in crude oil prices

TOKYO – Japan logged a trade deficit in November, the 29th straight month of shortfalls, despite a slight decrease in imports thanks to the recent plunge in crude oil prices and Japan’s return to recession.

The 891.9 billion yen ($8.5 billion) deficit in November compared with a 737 billion yen gap the month before, customs data showed Wednesday. However it was 32 per cent lower than a year earlier.

Japan’s costs for oil imports sank 22 per cent in November from a year earlier, reducing total imports by 1.7 per cent from a year earlier to 7.1 trillion yen ($60.7 billion). Exports rose 4.9 per cent to 6.19 trillion yen ($52.9 billion).

Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S. grew 20 per cent over a year earlier to 582.1 billion yen ($5 billion) as an increase in shipments of machinery offset a 12 per cent drop in the value of car exports. Its deficit with China, its biggest trading partner, rose 10 per cent.

The recovery of the U.S. economy has helped Japan’s exports, making up in part for China’s slowing growth. Meanwhile, belt-tightening by consumers and businesses following a hike in Japan’s sales tax in April has sapped import demand, even though the recent weakening of the Japanese yen would normally have pushed imports higher.