Japan trade deficit shrinks 31.5% on-year in November: govt

[TOKYO] Japan's trade deficit in November shrank by nearly a third from a year earlier, helped by higher exports and lower bills for oil imports, official data showed on Wednesday.

The deficit came to 891.9 billion yen (S$9.9 billion), down 31.5 per cent from the year-before shortfall, the finance ministry said.

"The drop in the trade shortfall in November should be followed by a further narrowing in coming months as lower oil prices will reduce the import bill," said Marcel Thieliant, Japan economist at Capital Economics.

The November deficit extended the run of Japan's shortfalls to the 29th straight month but it was smaller than the median forecast of 996 billion yen in the red in a survey by the Nikkei business daily.

Exports rose 4.9 per cent, largely on higher shipments of electronic components, optical equipment and machinery.

Imports fell by 1.7 per cent, the first downturn in three months, as the cost of imports of crude oil and petroleum products plunged.

The yen's exchange rate against the dollar was lower in November, pushing up import costs.

But lower oil prices more than offset the effect of the cheaper yen.

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