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Economy

Japan's Dec trade deficit doubles, while annual deficit hits record high

     TOKYO (Dow Jones) -- Japan's trade deficit jumped doubled in December, extending its run of shortfalls to a record 18th month, as the positive impact of a weaker yen on exports was again outweighed by its negative influence on imports.

     The deficit serves as another reminder of the mixed impact on trade of the yen's sharp depreciation under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

     In December Japan logged a trade deficit of Yen1.302 trillion, compared with a Yen1.256 trillion shortfall forecast in a survey conducted by the Nikkei and The Wall Street Journal, and a year-earlier deficit of Yen645.7 billion. While exports grew 15.3%, imports jumped 24.7% in December.

     The increase in exports largely reflects the impact of a weaker yen inflating their value rather than a hoped-for increase in export volumes.

     Imports have been rising as Japan's economy recovers under the prime minister's pro-growth policies known as "Abenomics." But a weaker yen stemming from Mr. Abe's policies is also making those imports more expensive, including the extra fuel supplies needed by Japan's power industry amid the continued shutdown of the nation's nuclear reactors.

     For the whole of 2013, the trade balance came to a record deficit of Yen11.475 trillion, the third straight year of red ink. The shortfall is the largest ever annual deficit under the current statistical format dating back to 1979, underlining Japan's lost status as a huge trade surplus nation.

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