Japan trade account returns to deficit as exports fall 3 pct

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TOKYO (AP) — Japan's trade balance slipped back into a deficit in November but was nearly 60 percent lower than a year earlier as a drop in imports outpaced a 3 percent decline in its exports.

Tepid demand overseas, especially in China, has been a persistent challenge as Japan, the world's No. 3 economy, struggles to keep its recovery on track.

Exports totaled 5.98 trillion yen ($48 billion) and imports 6.36 trillion yen ($52 billion), leaving a deficit of 379.7 billion yen ($3.1 billion). In October, Japan recorded a surplus of 111.5 billion yen.

The data reported Thursday showed Japan's exports to Asia dropped 8.7 percent from the year before, with an 8 percent fall in exports to China. Exports to the U.S. rose 2 percent.

Overall, imports fell 10 percent thanks largely to a drop in costs for imports of crude oil and gas.

Japan's exports of machinery, one of its mainstays, fell in November, while shipments of vehicles rose.

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