by Sun Xiaozheng
TOKYO, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Japan logged the biggest-ever trade deficit in September on tumbled exports as sales to China and Europe sagged.
In the first half of Japan's fiscal year 2012 to the end of September, the country logged 3,219.0 billion yen (about 40.6 billion U.S. dollars) in goods trade deficit, up 90.1 percent from a year earlier and the biggest since the Finance Ministry began recording in 1979.
In September alone, Japan recorded a trade deficit of 558.6 billion yen (7 billion U.S. dollars) for the third straight month, raising fears that the tension between Japan and its biggest trading partner China over territorial dispute have started deteriorating their economic ties.
Exports in September fell 10.3 percent from a year earlier to 5, 359.8 billion yen, against a 9.6 percent drop expected by economists, down for four months in a row, Ministry of Finance data showed on Monday, while exports to China, Japan's top market, fell 14.1 percent in September from a year earlier, marking the biggest decline since January.
Imports rose 4.1 percent to 5,918.3 billion yen in September.
Imports in the first half of the fiscal year grew 2.6 percent to 35,379.3 billion yen on increases in mineral fuels from the Middle East, as domestic utilities have boosted their heat power generation in substitution of the loss of nearly all atomic power in the country.
Japan's economy outperformed most of its peers in the Group of Seven industrialized countries in the first half of this year, local media said, adding that it was mostly helped by solid private consumption and reconstruction spending.
But weak overseas demand and a strong yen have led economists to project growth will likely stop for the rest of this year and the latest data raises concerns that the world's third largest economy may slide back into recession.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told his cabinet last week to prepare for a fresh stimulus package by next month, but according to media reports, the plan's limited range failed to impress markets.