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Economy

Japanese exports in April crash 21.9% to 10-year low

All major regions hurt as coronavirus slams auto industry

Japanese cars await shipment to North American markets, where demand remains weak.

TOKYO -- Japanese exports fell 21.9% in April, marking their biggest dive in over ten years as the new coronavirus weighed on economic activity, especially the auto industry.

Data released by the Ministry of Finance on Thursday revealed that Japan's exports fell to 5.2 trillion yen ($48 billion) from a year earlier -- the biggest decline since October 2009 after the Lehman shock.

The decrease followed an 11.7% drop in March.

The auto sector was hit hardest, with car exports cratering over 50% as shipments declined globally, including those to the U.S. and Asia. Exports of auto parts also fell 39.2%.

By region, exports to the U.S. fell 37.8% to 879 billion yen, the biggest decrease since July 2009, reflecting of an overall drop in vehicles, auto parts and aircraft engines.

Exports to the European Union also decreased, sliding 28% to 483 billion yen.

Japan saw exports to China -- its largest trading partner -- decrease 4.1% to 1.1 trillion yen, but less than the 8.7% recorded in March. The figure was shored up by shipments of semiconductor parts, which increased nearly 30%. The shift toward teleworking likely led to the recovery of personal computer production in China, which boosted electrical parts demand.

For Asia, exports sunk 11.4% to 3.1 trillion yen.

Meanwhile, imports fell 7.2% to 6.1 trillion yen in April, higher than March's 5% drop with oil imports leading the decline at 40%.

The news from the ministry showed Japan's trade balance recording its first deficit in three months, at 930 billion yen.

Imports from China increased 11.7% to 1.7 trillion yen, the first increase in nine months. While imports of chemicals dropped, surging imports of textile yarn and other products such as masks drove domestic demand.

From the U.S., imports climbed 1.6% to 698 billion yen marked by an increase in aircraft as well as meat, while imports from the EU declined 6.8% to 674 billion yen.

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