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Japan trade deficit widens in May as euro zone debt crisis hurts exports

Japan's trade gap widened due to its first-ever shortfall with the European Union and soaring energy imports.

Japan nuclear reactors shutteredEnlarge
This file picture taken on February 28, 2012 shows workers standing near the stricken Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture. Japan closed all of its nuclear reactors following the disaster at Fukushima's power plant. At the weekend, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave the go-ahead for two reactors to be restarted. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Export-dependent Japan posted a bigger-than-expected trade deficit in May due to weakening demand in crisis-hit Europe and soaring energy imports after the country mothballed its nuclear power plants, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Japan’s trade deficit of 907.26 billion yen ($11.5 billion) in May was 5.4 percent wider than the same month last year and nearly double the 520 billion yen gap forecast by economists, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

It was also the biggest trade deficit ever recorded for the month of May.

According to the Financial Times, Japan posted a trade deficit of 11 billion yen with the European Union, its first shortfall with the region since records began in 1979, even as exports to the United States soared.

"Europe's debt problem is affecting international trade," Daiwa Institute of Research economist Satoshi Osanai was quoted by the Australian Associated Press as saying.

"If the European situation worsens, trade figures would worsen further. We have to watch the European problem closely."

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Overall exports rose 10 percent to 5.23 trillion yen as shipments to the United States soared 38 percent on strong demand for Japanese-made cars, Agence France-Presse reported.

Exports to the EU fell 0.9 percent.

Imports rose 9.3 percent to 6.14 trillion yen from a year earlier as Japan ramped up purchases of crude oil and natural gas to meet its energy needs after shuttering its nuclear power plants following last year’s disaster.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/120620/japan-trade-deficit-widens-may-euro-zone-debt-crisis