Japan says its trade balance returned to deficit in January, with a shortfall of 646 billion yen ($5.65 billion) as exports fell 13 percent from the same month a year before, with shipments to China tumbling 18 percent.

Customs data released Thursday show exports dropped to 5.35 trillion yen ($46 billion) while imports plunged 18 percent to 6 trillion yen ($52 billion). The deficit compared with a surplus of 140.2 billion yen in December.

China's economic slowdown has taken much of the steam out of Japan's economic recovery. Overall, Japan's exports to Asia also fell, by 18 percent.

Japan's exports to the U.S. slipped 5.3 percent from the year before to 1.13 trillion yen ($9.8 billion) in January while imports fell 9.7 percent to 584.8 billion yen ($5.1 billion).