Japan's trade balance plunged into a deficit of ¥725.32bn in the year through March, the first red ink for a fiscal year in 28 years, hurt by earlier rises in commodity prices and slower exports to the United States and other economies, the Finance Ministry has said.

Exports dropped a record 16.4% in fiscal 2008 from the previous year to ¥71.14 tr, the first decline in seven years, the ministry said in a preliminary report. Imports fell 4.1% to ¥71.87tr, also the first fall in seven years.

It was the first deficit for a business year since fiscal 1980, when Japan suffered from soaring crude oil prices after the second oil crisis.

Japan Times