Japan's exports growth slowed sharply in March, raising concerns that external demand remains weak even as the economy braces for the impact of a sales tax hike.
Exports rose 1.8 percent in March from a year earlier, data on Monday showed, well below analyst expectations in a Reuters poll for a rise of 6.3 percent, and following a 9.8 percent annual gain in February.
Imports in the world's third largest economy rose 18.1 percent on year, above analyst forecasts for a rise of 16.2 percent, in a further sign that Japanese consumers front-loaded spending ahead of a rise in the consumption tax at the start of April.
Japan's trade deficit meanwhile logged another record number, standing at 1.45 trillion yen ($14.14 billion) in March.
Bank of Singapore Chief Economist Richard Jerram told CNBC that the weaker-than-expected export numbers suggested weakness in the yen was failing to have a significant impact on the export sector.
The yen weakened about 20 percent against the U.S. dollar last year amid aggressive monetary stimulus from the Bank of Japan. It fell to a three-week low of 102.61 per dollar earlier on Monday.