Japan on Thursday posted a record trade deficit for the fiscal year, with car and electronics exports tumbling from a year earlier. But it also recorded a smaller-than-expected shortfall in March.
The 2011 fiscal-year deficit hit 4.410 trillion yen ($54.2 billion), according to the Finance Ministry, marking the worst figure on record amid continuing worries about Japan's economy, the world's third-largest.
For the year ended March, Japanese exports of electronics fell 14.7%, followed by a fall of 5.4% in vehicle shipments.
In the same period, crude-oil imports rose 21.9% while liquefied natural-gas orders shot up 52.2%, amid concerns of energy shortages in the coming months.
In March, Japan posted a trade deficit of 82.6 billion yen after recording a surplus in February. But the monthly figure was well-below economists' expectations for a March deficit above 200 billion yen.
For decades, Japan enjoyed huge trade surpluses, owing to its competitive cars, electronics and other exports.
But the country is resource-poor and its energy imports have soared in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, with atomic power stations taken offline and fossil-fuel plants used to make up the difference.
The March earthquake and tsunami that triggered the disaster also disrupted manufacturing supply chains across Japan, with floods in Thailand having a similar effect later in the year.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012