Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s imports rose more than 40% for a fifth straight month in September to their biggest on record, Finance Ministry (MOF) data showed on Thursday, as a weaker yen added to already high fuel imports. expenses.

A surge in imports outpaced growth in exports, leading to a trade deficit of 2 trillion yen ($13.34 billion) and extending the deficit to 14 months, which could put pressure on the Japanese currency.

A persistent deficit would worsen Japan’s terms of trade, causing domestic income to be shifted abroad and eroding Japan’s purchasing power.

The yen’s excessive weakness, once hailed for making exports more competitive, is now seen to be hurting households and retailers by driving up already high prices for imported fuel and food. The sharp fall in the yen also increases the uncertainty for companies in making business decisions.

Japan’s imports rose 45.9% year-on-year in September, led by crude oil, liquefied natural gas and coal, roughly in line with economists’ average estimate of a gain of 45.0, Finance Ministry data showed. %.

It was the 20th consecutive month of profit and was 11 trillion yen in value, the largest in history. This followed a 49.9% rise in the previous month.

In September, exports increased by 28.9% compared to the same month last year, thanks to US car deliveries and demand for chips and electronic parts from South Korea. The increase in exports compared with the 27.1% increase that economists had expected, after a 22.0% increase in August.

By region, exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, rose 17.1% year-on-year in September, driven by demand for cars and chip-making equipment.

US shipments rose 45.2% in the year to September, led by shipments of cars, construction and mining equipment.

Japan’s economy expanded 3.5% year-on-year in April-June, recording a third straight quarter of growth as the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions boosted consumer and business spending.

Japanese authorities spent 2.8 trillion yen on interventions to sell the dollar and buy the yen for the first time since 1998 to support the Japanese currency. The yen has fallen about 20% against the dollar this year and hit a 32-year low.

(1 dollar = 149.8700 yen)

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes and Richard Pullin)

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