The world's third-largest economy, struggling to emerge from 15 years of deflation, ended 2013 with a record trade deficit of 11.45 trillion yen ($112.07 billion) as a weaker yen, while helping to drive up exports, also pushed up import costs, especially those of energy, to record levels, the Finance Ministry reported on its web site Monday.
The December numbers were the 18th straight month when Japan, an export-dependent economy, reported a deficit.
December exports were up 15.3 percent from the same month of December 2012 to 6.1 trillion yen. But that was more than offset by imports which jumped 24.7 percent year-on-year to 7.4 trillion yen, leaving a deficit of 1.3 trillion yen ($12.72 billion), the ministry said. The December deficit soared 101.6 percent from a deficit of 645.7 billion yen in December of 2012.
For all of 2013, exports rose 9.5 percent to 69.8 trillion yen year-on-year, while year-on-year imports jumped 15 percent to 81.3 trillion yen, leaving a deficit of 11.5 trillion yen, or $112.07 billion, for the whole year. Import costs for liquefied natural gas rose 17.5 during the year, while those of crude oil were up 16.3 percent.
The annual trade deficit was up 65.3 percent from the earlier record of 6.94 trillion yen in 2012. The ministry said 2013 was the third straight year of trade deficits. Energy imports have risen as Japan's nuclear reactors have been shut down following the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, focused on pulling the country out of chronic deflation, have helped bring down the value of the yen against the U.S. dollar.
The government, despite the growing trade deficit, is expected to continue with its aggressive policies, analysts have said.