Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 11:27 UK

Japanese trade indicator halves

Cars for export are parked at a Yokohama port, near Tokyo. File photo
Demand for Japanese cars has been hit by the global downturn

Japan's current account surplus, the widest measure of its trade, fell 50.2% in the year to the end of March to 12.23tn yen ($127bn; £83bn).

The country's economy has been hit hard by falling demand for cars, televisions and other electrical goods as the global economy has slowed.

The Ministry of Finance figures were the worst since records began in 1985.

However, the figures were still better than expected, thanks to recent signs of improvement.

March's surplus came in at 1.49tn yen, the second straight monthly surplus following January's record deficit.

Car trouble

"As overseas demand has bottomed out, the trade balance will recover moderately albeit at a low level," said Junko Nishioka, chief Japan economist at RBS Securities.

"Japan will face fewer risks of a current account deficit," he added.

In another development, Toyota, the world's biggest carmaker, said it would make 28% fewer cars in 2009 than it did last year, cutting production to its lowest level in seven years.

It said it aims to produce 6.68 million vehicles in 2009, down from 9.24 million in 2008.

Last week, the firm said it made a net loss of 436.94bn yen ($4.4bn; £2.9bn) in the year to 31 March, compared with a record profit the year before.

The figures represented Toyota's worst annual performance - and the company said it expected to make a bigger loss in this financial year.

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