TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan posted a goods trade deficit for the third consecutive month in January, hit by weak exports to China and the United States, government data showed Wednesday.
The trade deficit stood at 1.31 trillion yen ($12 billion), following an upwardly revised 154.55 billion yen deficit in December, according to a preliminary report released by the Finance Ministry.
Exports declined 2.6 percent from a year earlier to 5.43 trillion yen, down for the 14th straight month, and imports fell 3.6 percent to 6.74 trillion yen, falling for the ninth consecutive month, the ministry said.
Exports to China -- one of Japan's biggest trading partners -- dropped 6.4 percent to 896.57 billion yen on declines in products such as materials for chemical products and auto parts, while imports were down 5.7 percent to 1.74 trillion yen, led by items including mobile phones and aluminum.
As a result, the balance stood at 838.53 billion yen in deficit.
Across Asia, including China, the balance turned red for the first time in a year with a deficit of 567.86 billion yen
Japan's trade surplus with the United States inched up 0.3 percent to 369.23 billion yen, the first increase in five months, helped by a decline in crude oil imports. Exports to the world's biggest economy fell 7.7 percent to 1.05 trillion yen, down for the sixth straight month.
With the European Union, Japan saw a trade deficit of 91.38 billion yen, marking the seventh straight monthly red ink.
The figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.