Japan posted a trade deficit of 2.03 trillion yen ($15 billion) in November after imports grew more than exports amid higher energy costs and a weaker yen, government data showed Thursday, increasing the likelihood the resource-scarce nation will report its largest-ever yearly deficit at the end of 2022.

Energy-related imports pushed up the overall import figure by 30.3 percent from a year earlier to 10.86 trillion yen. This compares with exports that grew 20 percent to 8.84 trillion yen amid robust U.S.-bound shipments of cars and machinery, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The yen was sharply lower in November year-on-year relative to the U.S. dollar, inflating import costs.

The softer yen reflects the diverging policy paths of Japan and U.S. monetary policies with the Federal Reserve implementing aggressive rate hikes to fight inflation. The fast-paced tightening has raised concerns about an economic slowdown, boding ill for Japan.

Japan was in the red for the 16th straight month and the deficit has already ballooned to 18.51 trillion yen this year, already surpassing the 12.82 trillion yen loss reported in 2014 when the deficit hit a record high, according to the ministry.

Japan had a trade surplus of 680.39 billion yen with the United States, helped by auto and machinery shipments, in a sign of strong demand. Exports jumped 32.5 percent to 1.72 trillion yen while imports gained 21.5 percent to 1.04 trillion yen, both record highs for the month of November.

With China, another major trading partner, Japan had a trade deficit of 690.69 billion yen. Imports rose 17.3 percent to 2.32 trillion yen, which compares with a 3.5 percent gain in exports to 1.63 trillion yen. Both figures were the largest for November.

The trade balance came to a 181.01 billion yen deficit with Asia, including China, and Japan also had a deficit with the European Union of 212.17 billion yen.

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