Japan recorded its largest single-month trade deficit in more than eight years in May, underscoring the challenges its economy faces from a slide in the yen and surging costs of energy and raw materials.
High commodity prices contributed to a surge in imports, which 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 Japan exports in the same month, resulting in a 2.385 trillion yen ($17.8 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 US 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.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell