Japan's Trade Surplus Drops 94 Percent

Tokyo's trade surplus shrank sharply in September, as the rising cost of importing energy and raw materials exacerbated the impact of limp overseas demand.

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade surplus shrank sharply in September, as the rising cost of importing energy and raw materials exacerbated the impact of limp overseas demand, the government said Thursday.

The data underscore that while fuel prices may be starting to moderate, Japan's export-driven economy is likely to hit more turbulence ahead as fallout from the global financial crisis intensifies.

Japan's surplus tumbled a more-than-expected 94.1 percent to 95.111 billion yen ($965.7 million) in September, far worse than the 1.609 trillion yen ($16.34 billion) surplus it posted in the same month last year, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The resource-poor country was saddled with high costs for oil, coal and natural gas, sending its imports up 28.8 percent to 7.272 trillion yen ($73.8 billion). Meanwhile, total exports inched up just 1.5 percent to 7.368 trillion yen ($74.8 billion) as shipments of cars and consumer electronics to North America and Europe fell.

Still, September's figures represent a turnaround from the previous month, when the world's No. 2 economy posted a rare trade deficit. The country spent slightly less on energy imports in September than it did in August, reflecting recent declines in crude oil prices.

For the April-September period, Japan's trade surplus shrank 85.6 percent to 801.97 billion yen ($8.14 billion).

In stock trading Thursday, Japanese markets plummeted for the second straight day following a big overnight retreat. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average was off more than 7 percent during the morning session.

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