Japanese Trade Slump Eases

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's exports fell by the smallest margin in 10 months in September, showing a deep slump in the world's second-largest economy may be easing.

Exports were down 30.7 percent in September from a year earlier, the 12th straight month of declines, but the lowest decrease since November of last year, the Ministry of Finance said Thursday. Exports totaled 5.1 trillion yen ($56 billion).

Automotive exports, which make up nearly a fourth of Japan's exports, were down 35.2 percent.

Imports, meanwhile, fell 36.9 percent to 4.6 trillion ($51 billion), the smallest drop fall in five months.

Japan's stagnant economy has caused consumers to cut back in spending as unemployment increases, and imports have now fallen for 11 straight months.

The monthly trade surplus, or the amount exports exceed imports, for September was 521 billion yen.

Exports to China were down 13.8 percent to 982 billion yen, a smaller decrease then the 27.6 percent fall recorded in August.

Shipments to the U.S. slipped 34.1 percent to 833 billion yen, the 25th straight month of yearly declines. Japan's exports to the European Union fell 39 percent.

The ministry said the fall in exports was particularly severe in the auto sector, as well as steel products and machinery, which includes computers.

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