Japan racks up record deficit amid weak yen, soaring fuel imports, lowers growth estimate

TOKYO – Japan racked up a record current account deficit in January, and lowered its growth estimate for the October-December quarter Monday in the latest sign of hardships for the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan’s current account deficit totalled 1.589 trillion yen ($15 billion), the biggest for January since comparable records began in 1985, according to the Finance Ministry.

The Cabinet Office revised its real gross domestic product growth to an annual pace of 0.7 per cent, lower than its initial 1.0 per cent. It said that both private and public demand was lower than it had estimated last month, including lower levels for private consumption and public investment.

The government has encouraged a weak yen to help exports, a boon to multinational companies such Toyota Motor Corp. But a cheap yen makes imports more expensive at a time when dependence on imported oil and natural gas has risen since the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Reactors dotting the nation’s coastline have been shut down for safety fears, but the government wants to restart some of them. Before the disaster, nuclear energy provided 30 per cent of Japan’s energy needs.

A giant tsunami on March 11, 2011, destroyed backup generators at Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, setting off multiple meltdowns and explosions, in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chornobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986.


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