Japan logs record trade deficit in Jan as exports dive

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 25 2009 08:43 AM | Updated as of Feb 25 2009 07:20 PM

TOKYO - Japan logged a record trade deficit in January as exports suffered their steepest ever fall due to the global economic crisis, official figures showed Wednesday.

Car exports in particular plummeted as demand slumped in recession-hit markets in North America, Europe and elsewhere, pushing Asia's economy deeper into recession.

Japan's trade deficit ballooned to 952.6 billion yen ($9.9 billion) in January as exports plunged 45.7 percent from a year earlier, the finance ministry reported.

It was the worst month for Japanese trade since comparable records began in 1979, the ministry said.

Demand for Japanese cars, electronics and other goods has been crushed by a slump in worldwide consumer spending, pushing the world's second largest economy into its worst recession in decades.

Japanese exports to the US economy, the epicentre of the crisis, tumbled nearly 53 percent in January while shipments to the European Union countries dropped 47 percent, the finance ministry said.

Exports of Japanese cars plunged almost 69 percent by value as automakers such as Toyota Motor idled plants in response to slumping sales in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

Once seen as relatively immune to the global downturn, Japan's economy has become one of the biggest victims, exposing the fragility of its export-led recovery from a decade-long slump, analysts say.

The government said last week that Japan's economy was in the deepest crisis since World War II, after contracting at an annualised pace of 12.7 percent in the last quarter of 2008, the worst performance in almost 35 years.