Japan logs record trade deficit in 2012 amid islands dispute with China

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese exports fell 5.8 per cent in December from a year earlier, bringing the country into a record trade deficit for 2012, Ministry of Finance data showed today, suggesting it will take more time for exports to stabilise after a slowdown in overseas economies.

For 2012, Japan logged a record annual trade deficit of 6.927 trillion yen (S$96 billion) as the sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone and a territorial row with China hurt exports, and the shutdown of nuclear power plants since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami pushed up energy imports.

The fall in exports, which are a key driver of the world's third-largest economy, compared with the median forecast for a 4.2 per cent decline in a Reuters poll of economists. It was the seventh straight month of declines, and followed a 4.1 per cent year-on-year fall in November.

Exports to China, the top destination for Japanese shipments, dropped 15.8 per cent in the year to December and those to Europe declined 11.1 per cent.

Imports rose 1.9 per cent from a year earlier.

The trade balance came to a deficit of 641.5 billion yen in December, versus a 534.0 billion yen deficit projected by economists. It was the sixth straight month of deficits.

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