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3RD LD: Japan's Feb. exports, imports both post record fall.

TOKYO, March 25 Kyodo


Japan's exports and imports in February both recorded the sharpest pace of decline on record since comparable year-on-year data became available in January 1980, as global trade stayed on a weak note amid the economic crisis, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

In the reporting month, the nation's trade balance swung back into the black for the first time in five months, although surplus was down 91.2 percent from the year before to 82.4 billion yen.

Exports sank 49.4 percent to 3,525.5 billion yen, down for the fifth straight month, while imports tumbled 43.0 percent to 3,443.1 billion yen for the fourth consecutive monthly drop, the ministry said in a preliminary report.

Japan's shipments of vehicles, auto parts and semiconductors sharply fell, while imports of crude oil, nonferrous metals and petroleum products continued to dwindle, according to the report.

The average price of oil imports in February plunged 51.3 percent from a year earlier to $45.3 per barrel, the ministry said.

Hideki Matsumura, senior economist at the Japan Research Institute, said sharp falls in the nation's exports and imports underline worsening economic conditions for Japan.

He noted that imports plunged due to dives in oil prices, as well as receding domestic demand with weak corporate capital spending and personal spending.

''Up until January, imports fell mainly because of oil price drops, but the deteriorating domestic economy emerged as a major factor in February,'' Matsumura said.

The economist said, however, that China-bound raw material exports have shown signs of picking up and a massive stimulus plan in the country could support Japanese exporters.

By region, trade surplus with the United States plummeted 79.0 percent to 146.2 billion yen, slipping at the fastest pace on record and down for the 18th straight month.

Both exports and imports to and from the United States shrank at the fastest pace on record, registering a 58.4 percent and 36.2 percent decrease, respectively.

The country's U.S.-bound exports tumbled for the 18th month in a row to 556.5 billion yen, with shipments of vehicles, auto parts and engines battered by collapsing demand.

Exports to the United States also registered a double-digit decline for the ninth straight month for the first time since March to November in 1986, when Japanese exporters suffered from the yen's rapid appreciation following the 1985 Plaza Accord and trade frictions with the country, a ministry official said.

Imports from the United States fell 36.2 percent for the fifth straight month to 410.3 billion yen, led by grain, aircraft and semiconductors.

Japan's trade surplus with the rest of Asia dived 58.9 percent to 375.7 billion yen for the sixth consecutive monthly drop, with both exports and imports sharply declining.

Shipments to the rest of Asia dropped 46.3 percent to 1,783.9 billion yen, down for the fifth straight month, while imports slid 41.5 percent to 1,408.2 billion yen, down for the fourth consecutive month.

Japan posted a trade surplus of 13.5 billion yen with China, excluding Hong Kong and Macao, the first black ink figure in six months, as the nation's imports fell faster than exports.

Exports to mainland China shed 39.7 percent to 611.8 billion yen, down for the fifth straight month, and imports sank 41.1 percent from a year earlier for the fourth consecutive monthly drop. Imports of clothing, laptop computers and DVD recorders tumbled, the official said.

Japan's trade surplus with the European Union narrowed 81.6 percent to 96.9 billion yen for the sixth consecutive monthly decline.

Exports to the 27-nation European bloc slid at the fastest pace, 54.7 percent from a year earlier to 491.3 billion yen, down for the seventh month in a row.

Imports from the region dropped 29.5 percent to 394.4 billion yen, down for the fifth consecutive month.

Trade data are measured on a customs-cleared basis before adjustments for seasonal factors.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Mar 30, 2009
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