TOKYO >> Japan posted a trade deficit for the 14th straight month, government data showed Thursday, with exports and imports hitting record highs, as the falling value of the yen added to rising costs of imported energy, food and other goods. .
Imports totaled $72.7 billion in September, according to the Ministry of Finance, up nearly 46% from the same month a year ago on the back of rising oil and gas costs.
Imports have grown for 20 months straight after a year. But import costs were lower than the previous month, showing that some commodity prices have begun to stabilise.
Exports totaled $58.7 billion, with the strongest growth in cars and steel. It was the 20th straight month of year-over-year monthly gains.
The Japanese Yen has weakened significantly as the Bank of Japan maintains its negative interest rate policy, to keep economic activity going, while the US Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy to combat rising inflationary pressures.
Experts say the rate differential leads to a weaker yen. But the Bank of Japan has said that Japan’s inflation is not as serious as the problem in the United States and some other countries. Until recently, Japan has instead been struggling to keep deflation, or falling prices, at bay.
The war in Ukraine and other global factors have initiated the recent steep rise in energy costs. Japan imports almost all of its oil.
In the past, the weak yen has been a boon for Japan’s giant exporters, such as Toyota and Nintendo, by raising the value of foreign earnings when converted into yen.
But the perk has gradually diminished, hurting consumers and businesses who have to pay higher prices for food, energy, raw materials and other necessities.
Japanese government leaders have indicated that they may act to try to prevent volatility in exchange rates as the Yen has continued to slide, falling to around 150 yen to the dollar, or a new 32-year low.
Junichi Makino, chief economist at SMBC Nikko Securities, said auto exports were recovering after months of parts shortages related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan’s computer chip exports were also strong, underpinned by strong demand from China, Makino said.