Japan logs record current account deficit as trade balance tips
Japan's current account logged a record deficit in November and remained in the red for a second consecutive month as a bulging trade deficit weighed on the country's balance of payments.
The 592.8 billion yen ($5.74 billion) deficit in November beat the median estimate for a 380.4 billion yen deficit as a weak yen pushed up the cost of imports.
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However, economists say the current account is likely to return to surplus in coming months as Japan's income balance remains strong and as an expected recovery in exports will take some pressure off the trade balance.
"On top of the weak yen, we have solid domestic consumption before a sale tax hike in April, which has boosted imports," said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.
"As such, Japan's current account tends to log deficits for the time being, but it will return to surplus steadily after April as the tax hike curbs domestic demand and the U.S. economy leads the global recovery."
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The trade deficit in November widened to 1.25 trillion yen, according to current account data released by the finance ministry on Tuesday.
The income surplus stood at 900.2 billion yen, due to returns from a large selection of corporate assets and investments held overseas.
The yen has fallen around 17 percent from a year ago as the Bank of Japan ramped up purchases of government debt under expanded quantitative easing to help end 15 years of mild deflation.
Many in the government see the currency's decline as a positive, because it boosts exporters earnings, although the yen's weakness has pushed up import prices and contributed to persistent trade deficits.
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Japan passed the halfway mark towards its 2 percent inflation goal in November as prices rose the most in five years, while regular wages halted 17 months of declines, underlining progress on two key fronts to revive the economy.
Growth is likely to continue this year due to strong domestic demand, but economists still doubt whether the BOJ can meet its inflation target in the two-year time frame that it outlined in an overhaul of monetary policy last year.