Japan's trade deficit narrows as lower oil prices reduce import costs, export volume weakens

Japan reports its trade deficit narrowed in February, thanks to a plunge in import costs thanks to lower crude oil prices. It was the 32nd straight month of deficits.

The Finance Ministry said Wednesday that the trade deficit fell 47 percent from a year earlier to 424.6 billion yen ($3.5 billion) last month, compared with a gap of 1.18 trillion yen in January. The gap was smaller than expected, but belied a weakening in export volumes, Capital Economics said in a commentary.

Vehicle and machinery exports jumped while imports from the Middle East, mostly of oil and gas, fell 43 percent.

Japan's exports to the U.S. jumped 14 percent from a year earlier to 1.2 trillion yen (about $10 billion), but shipments to China fell more than 17 percent.