EXPORTS from Japan in April were less than had been forecast and the trade deficit was wider than had been expected, underscoring risks to the economy's recovery just a day after Fitch Ratings had cut the nation's debt rating.
Outbound shipments rose 7.9pc from a year earlier -- less than the 11.8pc median forecast by analysts. The deficit of 520.3bn yen (€5.2bn) exceeded an 84.5bn yen shortfall in March, according to the finance ministry in Tokyo.
Constraints on exports show the challenge for the government of sustaining growth without worsening the nation's finances as the boost from earthquake rebuilding fades.
Finance Minister Jun Azumi called for the Bank of Japan to "take appropriate steps in a timely manner" and Citigroup Global Markets Japan said the central bank may boost asset purchases in coming months.
"If exports stay flat when the effect of the post-quake reconstruction is likely to peak out in the latter half of the year, there's a possibility Japan's economy will fall into a lull," said Kiichi Murashima, an economist at Citigroup.
Tuesday's sovereign-rating cut escalated pressure on parliament to double the sales tax to boost revenue, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warning that the nation's debt was heading into "uncharted territory".