A steep drop in exports following the twin disasters in Japan pushed the country’s trade deficit with the rest of the world to $5.65 billion in April, according to preliminary government figures released Wednesday.
Exports of automobiles and parts plunged 67 percent from the same month a year ago as Japan’s Big Three automakers and their suppliers struggled to repair supply chains that were fractured in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Japan’s first trade deficit in three months also was the first trade deficit in April in 31 years.
Many analysts expect Japan will continue to import more than it exports in coming months to come as the country struggles to recover from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeastern part of the country.
The twin natural disasters directly affected many auto, electronics and other parts makers’ plants, causing disruptions to supply chains. They also caused the immediate shutdown of four nuclear power plants, including the Fukushima No.1 plant at the center of the ongoing nuclear crisis.
As a result, many factories in a wide range of industries, even in the unaffected areas, have been forced to stop or curtail operations due to parts and electricity shortages.
Japan’s overall exports fell for the second straight month in April on a year-on-year basis, plunging 12.5 percent to $62.9 billion. The year-on-year rate of decline was much bigger than 2.3 percent in March.
But Japan’s overall imports rose for the 16th successive month in April on a year-on-year basis, increasing 8.9 percent to $68.5 billion.
The drop in Japan’s overall exports in April was led by autos, which fell 67 percent electronic parts, including semiconductors, and mineral fuels, which fell 67 percent, 19.0 percent and 46.1 percent, respectively, in terms of value.
The rise in Japan’s overall imports in April was fueled by petroleum products, crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG), which increased 62.2 percent, 7.9 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively, in terms of value.
Japan’s exports to the United States fell for two months in a row in April on a year-on-year basis, tumbling 23.3 percent to $8.18 billion. The pace of decline significantly quickened from 3.5 percent in March.
But Japan’s imports from the U.S. rose for the first time in two months in April on a year-on-year basis, increasing 1.8 percent to $6.18 billion. Japan’s imports from the U.S. had dropped 6.4 percent in March.
As a result, Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S. narrowed for the first time in five months on a year-on-year basis, shrinking 56.5 percent to $2 billion).