TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s trade balance slipped into deficit in August, for the first time in three months, as a stronger yen sapped exports, the Finance Ministry reported Wednesday.
Exports in August totaled 5.32 trillion yen ($52.4 billion), down 9.6 percent from a year earlier, while imports totaled 5.34 trillion yen ($52.5 billion), a 17.3 percent drop.
The deficit of 18.7 billion yen ($184 million) was still smaller than the 567.5 billion yen deficit recorded in August 2015. But it followed a surplus of 514 billion yen in July, and surprised analysts who had forecast a robust surplus for the month.
The news could add to pressure on Japan’s central bank to announce fresh monetary policy measures to stimulate growth at a meeting that ends Wednesday.
The yen weakened sharply in late 2012 through 2014 but has since rebounded. That can make Japanese products less price competitive overseas.
Exports to China in August fell nearly 9 percent from a year earlier while exports to the U.S., Japan’s biggest single overseas market dropped 14.5 percent.
Japan’s car exports fell 9.4 percent while exports of machinery, chemicals and electronic devices also dropped. But imports also weakened, with purchases of oil, gas and other fuels falling nearly 35 percent.