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TOKYO: Japan ran its biggest single-month trade deficit in more than eight years in May as high commodity prices and declines in the yen swelled imports, clouding the country's economic outlook.
The growing trade deficit underscores the headwinds the world's third-largest economy faces from a slide in the yen and surging costs of fuel and raw materials, on which domestic manufacturers rely for production.
Imports soared 48.9% in the year to May, Ministry of Finance data showed on Thursday, above a median market forecast for a 43.6% gain in a Reuters poll.
That outpaced a 15.8% year-on-year rise in exports in the same month, resulting in a 2.385 trillion yen ($17.80 billion) trade deficit, the largest shortfall in a single month since January 2014.
May's deficit marked the 10th straight month of year-on-year shortfalls and was bigger than the 2.023 trillion yen gap expected in a Reuters poll.
By region, exports to China, Japan's largest trading partner, shrank 0.2% in the 12 months to May on weaker shipments of machinery and transport equipment to the country.
Shipments bound for the United States, the world's largest economy, rose 13.6% in May, thanks to stronger exports of machinery and mineral fuels.
Imports were pushed up strongly by larger shipments of oil from the United Arab Emirates and coal and liquefied natural gas from Australia, the data showed.
Although Japan's economy is expected to grow an annualised 4.1% this quarter as the coronavirus pandemic fades, a slide in the yen is threatening to hurt consumer sentiment as higher fuel and food costs inflict pain on households. Read full story
Nearly half of Japanese companies see a weak yen as bad for their business, a private survey showed this week, suggesting the currency's declines are hurting business sentiment.- Reuters