Tokyo: Japan's trade deficit narrowed in May as imports turned down for the first time in a year and a half, data showed on Wednesday, but weaker shipments abroad helped keep the trade balance in the red.
The figures — which suggested the world's number three economy was slowing — reflected a fall-off in spending after sales taxes rose in April, a move seen as crucial to paying down a huge national debt but one that threatened to stall the nation's budding economic recovery.
The trade deficit has ballooned since the 2011 Fukushima atomic crisis forced the shutdown of nuclear reactors and a shift to pricey fossil-fuel imports to plug the energy gap. Nuclear once supplied more than a quarter of Japan's power.
Imports were down 3.6 per cent to ¥6.5 trillion, the first on-year drop in 19 months.