May 21, 2020 / 12:30 AM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-Japan exports fall most since 2009 as pandemic hits demand

 (Adds detail, context)
    * April exports -21.9% yr/yr vs forecast -22.7%
    * Imports -7.2% yr/yr; trade deficit at 930.4 bln yen
    * Japan sliding deeper into recession as virus bites

    By Tetsushi Kajimoto
    TOKYO, May 21 (Reuters) - Japan's exports in April fell the
most since the 2009 global financial crisis as the world's
third-largest economy braced for a deeper slide into recession,
with the coronavirus pandemic taking a heavy toll on external
    The trade data underscored the challenge policymakers face
in balancing the need to contain the virus, and restarting parts
of the battered economy.
    Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed on Thursday exports
fell 21.9% in the year to April as U.S.-bound shipments fell
37.8%, the fastest decline since 2009, with car exports there
plunging 65.8%.
    The fall compares with a 22.7% decrease seen by economists
in a Reuters poll. It followed a 11.7% fall in March, and posted
the steepest drop since a 23.2% decline in October 2009 when
global demand evaporated due to the global financial crisis.
    Exports to China, Japan's largest trading partner, fell 4.1%
in the year to April.
    Shipments to Asia, which account for more than half of
Japanese exports, declined 11.4%, and exports to the European
Union fell 28.0%.
    Japan's economy slipped into recession for the first time in
4-1/2 years, putting the nation on course for its deepest
postwar slump as the pandemic ravages businesses and consumers.
    Monday's first-quarter GDP data underlined the broadening
impact of the outbreak, with exports plunging the most since the
devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami as global
lockdowns and supply chain disruptions hit shipments.
    Analysts warn of an even bleaker picture for the current
quarter as consumption crumbled after the government in April
requested citizens to stay home and businesses to close.

 (Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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