Japan trade deficit narrows in August on lower oil imports, stronger exports to US

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TOKYO — Japan's trade deficit narrowed in August from the year before as costs for crude oil imports plunged and exports to the U.S. showed steady growth.

The customs data released Thursday showed a 4.2 percent drop from August a year earlier in the volume of exports for the world's third-largest economy, likely mainly reflecting weakness in shipments to China.

But the value of exports rose 3.1 percent from a year earlier, to 5.9 trillion yen ($48.7 billion) while imports fell 3.1 percent to 6.5 trillion yen ($53.4 billion). The 569.7 billion yen ($4.7 billion) deficit was the largest in seven months.

The slowdown in China's economy hit shipments of steel, auto parts and metalworking machinery hardest, pulling exports 4.6 percent lower than a year earlier. Japan's imports from China rose 15 percent, causing its deficit to more than double, to 485.5 billion yen ($4 billion).

Exports to the U.S. rose 11 percent from a year earlier, mainly due to sales of cars and pharmaceuticals.

Slowing exports have become a drag on growth, contributing to a contraction in the April-June quarter despite the boost to the overall trade balance from lower prices for imported oil and gas. Costs for crude oil imports fell about 33 percent in August from a year earlier.

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