Japan July trade deficit nearly doubles on-year

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's trade deficit nearly doubled last month as a weaker yen sent the country's energy import bill soaring, even as the export picture looked brighter, the government said on Monday.

The finance ministry reported a bigger-than-expected deficit of 1.024 trillion yen (S$13.3 billion) for July.

It was the 13th straight month of shortfalls in what is the longest deficit spell in more than three decades.

The gap came even as the value of exports jumped 12.2 percent in July from a year earlier, powered by strong demand in the United States and China, as well as Europe.

A weaker yen boosts the value of exports denominated in foreign currencies when they're converted back to the Japanese currency.

Japan's energy import bills have surged since Tokyo shut down the country's nuclear reactor following the crisis at Fukushima, as it turned to price fossil fuel alternatives.

Monday's data comes a week after separate figures showed the world's third-largest economy slowed in the last quarter, raising questions about whether Tokyo would go ahead with sales tax hikes that some fear could derail its bid to stoke growth.