Japan's trade deficit widened in September, the third straight month of shortfall, as exports plunged 10.3 percent from a year earlier, weighed down by Europe's debt crisis and a surge in antagonisms with China that have damaged close economic ties.
The deficit for September was 558.6 billion yen ($7.2 billion), the Finance Ministry said Monday, higher than the forecasts of many analysts and bigger than a deficit of about $3.7 billion a year earlier. The deficit in August was $9.6 billion.
September's exports totaled 5.4 trillion yen ($68.7 billion). Imports rose 4 percent from a year earlier to 5.9 trillion yen ($75.9 billion), continuing to be inflated by additional imports of oil and other fuels for power generation as most nuclear reactors remain offline in the aftermath of last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The ministry figures show exports to all regions falling, apart from a meager 0.4 percent year-on-year gain in shipments to North America. Exports to crisis-stricken Europe plummeted 26 percent.
A territorial dispute with China that sparked anti-Japanese riots in September took a heavy toll, with exports to China sinking 14 percent from a year earlier to 953.4 billion yen ($12.2 billion). Imports from China climbed 3.8 percent to 1.28 trillion yen ($16.4 billion).
The rise in antagonisms over disputed islands in the East China Sea has been especially hard on the auto industry. Auto exports fell 15 percent in September from the year before
The strong Japanese yen has hurt the country's export competitiveness, while demand has evaporated as growth slowed in most regions. Exports of consumer electronics, a mainstay, fell by double-digit figures from a year earlier.