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Jul 23, 9:51 PM EDT

Japan trade deficit widens to $8 billion in June

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TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade deficit more than tripled from the year before in June to a higher-than-expected 822.2 billion yen ($8.1 billion), as imports surged and exports edged lower.

The Finance Ministry reported Thursday that imports jumped 8.4 percent year-on-year to 6.76 trillion yen ($66.6 billion), while exports fell 2 percent to 5.94 trillion yen ($58.5 billion).

The trade deficit was 911 billion yen in May. In seasonally adjusted terms it rose from 862 billion yen in May to 1.1 trillion yen ($10.6 billion) in June.

Japan's higher imports of fuel and gas pushed its trade balance into the red following the halting for safety checks of all its nuclear reactors following the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

Exports have so far failed to keep pace, despite a weakening in the value of the yen in 2012-2013. But the recovery of economies elsewhere has raised hopes that exports might to more to drive growth in coming months.

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