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More pressure on tumbling yen

admin2022-10-229

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,Japanese yen and US dollar notes are seen in this illustration. — Reuters

TOKYO: Japan’s trade gap extended its longest streak of red ink since 2015, as the weaker yen pushed up the import bill, an outcome that will weigh on the economy and feed back into further currency weakness.

The trade deficit topped two trillion yen (RM63.06bil) for a second-straight month, though it narrowed to 2.09 trillion yen (RM66.18bil) from the previous month’s record 2.82 trillion yen (RM88.92bil) shortfall.

The result compared with economists’ forecast for a 2.15 trillion yen (RM67.79bil) gap.

Imports rose 45.9%, a touch stronger than expected by analysts, as the cost of crude, coal and liquefied natural gas purchases soared from a year earlier.

Exports gained 28.9%, led by automobile and chip parts.

Analysts had pencilled in a 26.6% increase.

While an increase in shipments to China, the United States and Europe is good news for Japan’s big exporters, the prolonged trade shortfall will weigh on Japan’s recovery from the pandemic.

The deficit will drag on economic growth while soaring import costs for energy and food may amplify the impact by slowing domestic consumption.

The continued shortfalls will also reinforce weakness in the yen that further complicates Japan’s economic outlook.

“The trade deficit is adding strains to the economy when it lacks momentum,” said economist Takeshi Minami at Norinchukin Research Institute.

“It’s not just monetary policy, but also the trade gap that’s keeping the yen under downward pressure. As the deficit gets bigger, it can also give the impression that the nation’s economic power is declining.”

To counter the impact on companies and consumers, Japan is compiling an additional economic stimulus package this month, including support for households hit by accelerating inflation.

A second extra budget that will help fund the package will reportedly include 10 billion yen (RM315mil) in subsidies to help companies boost their exports, in an effort to take advantage of the weak yen.

According to the trade report, exports to the United States rose 45% in September from a year ago, while those to China increased 17%. Outbound shipments to Europe gained 33%.

The improved figures show the flipside benefits of the softer currency, though further gains also depend on continued growth in the global economy as fears increase over the impact of higher interest rates around the world.

Yuki Masujima, Bloomberg economist, says: “Looking ahead, we expect the trade deficit to expand again in October as weaker global demand limits export growth.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also said he’ll launch relief measures to counter rising electricity bills early next year.

He said petrol subsidies would also be maintained beyond January, and relief on natural gas bills will also be introduced.

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