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Japan posts $9.6B August trade gap as exports wilt

Associated Press Published: September 20, 2012

TOKYO (AP) — Japan posted a $9.6 billion trade deficit for August as shipments to Europe and Asian countries sank, further undermining hopes for an export-driven revival in the world's third-biggest economy.

The 754.1 billion yen ($9.6 billion) deficit in August was not much smaller than the $9.9 billion deficit reported a year earlier, the Finance Ministry reported Thursday. Exports in August totaled 5.05 trillion yen ($64.33 billion), down 5.8 percent from a year earlier, while imports fell 5.4 percent to 5.8 trillion yen ($73.9 billion).

The strong Japanese yen has bit into exports while demand has evaporated in crisis-stricken Europe. Meanwhile, the country's energy imports have risen following closures of most of its nuclear plants.

Japan's central bank, which on Wednesday announced it would boost the size and duration of a government bond-buying program to spur growth, forecast little change in the immediate future.

"Exports and industrial production are expected to remain relatively weak for the time being," the Bank of Japan said in its monthly report, released Thursday.

Japan has eked out small trade surpluses in some months this year but reported a record annual trade deficit for the fiscal year that ended in March.

Though the deficit for August was lower than the more than 800 billion yen that some analysts had forecast, prolonged weakness in Europe and recent friction with China, Japan's biggest overseas market, suggest the trade gap will likely persist in coming months.

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