Japanese exports crater

Japan, one of the export powerhouses of the global economy, just posted some ghastly trade data.

The disappointing result for January follows an equally unimpressive, and weak, trade report from China for the same time period.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Finance, exports fell by 12.9% in the 12 months to January, a result that was below the 8.0% contraction seen in December and expectations for a decline of 11.3%.

To put that decline into perspective, it was the steepest annual contraction in exports since October 2009.

By destination, exports to Asia plummeted by 17.8% from a year earlier, with those to China falling by 17.5%.

In comparison, exports to the US fell by just 5.3%.

Like exports, the news on imports was equally unnerving.

From January 2015 they tumbled by 18.0%, unchanged from the drop registered in December, although the figure missed expectations for a decline of 16.0%.

As a result of the movements in exports and imports, the national trade balance swung into the red, recording a trade deficit of 645.96 billion yen.

The figure was an improvement on the 680.2 billion yen deficit expected and 1.174 trillion yen deficit recorded a year earlier.

Having only adopted a negative interest rate policy in late January, the weak trade report will only intensify speculation that the Bank of Japan may add additional monetary policy stimulus to the Japanese economy, perhaps as early as its March 2016 meeting.

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