Japan logs worst January trade deficit of $22b on higher fuel costs

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan logged its worst ever trade deficit for January due mainly to heavier fuel import bills, official data showed on Wednesday.

Finance ministry figures showed the Japanese economy suffered a shortfall of 1.63 trillion yen (S$21.6 billion), the worst deficit on record for the month. Comparable data began in 1979. Economists had expected an average shortfall of 1.3 trillion yen.

Exports increased 6.4 per cent to 4.8 trillion yen, posting the first rise in eight months on higher shipments of automobile parts and other items. But imports rose 7.3 per cent to 6.43 trillion yen, as imports of petroleum products, natural liquefied gas and crude oil soared.

Japan's fuel imports have risen since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster sparked the world's worst nuclear accident in a generation, sending most atomic power plants offline.