Dec 16, 8:23 PM EST

Japan trade deficit grows despite drop in imports

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AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
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TOKYO (AP) -- Japan logged a trade deficit in November, the 29th straight month of shortfalls, despite a slight decrease in imports thanks to the recent plunge in crude oil prices and Japan's return to recession.

The 891.9 billion yen ($8.5 billion) deficit in November compared with a 737 billion yen gap the month before, customs data showed Wednesday. However it was 32 percent lower than a year earlier.

Japan's costs for oil imports sank 22 percent in November from a year earlier, reducing total imports by 1.7 percent from a year earlier to 7.1 trillion yen ($60.7 billion). Exports rose 4.9 percent to 6.19 trillion yen ($52.9 billion).

Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. grew 20 percent over a year earlier to 582.1 billion yen ($5 billion) as an increase in shipments of machinery offset a 12 percent drop in the value of car exports. Its deficit with China, its biggest trading partner, rose 10 percent.

The recovery of the U.S. economy has helped Japan's exports, making up in part for China's slowing growth. Meanwhile, belt-tightening by consumers and businesses following a hike in Japan's sales tax in April has sapped import demand, even though the recent weakening of the Japanese yen would normally have pushed imports higher.

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