TRADE IMBALANCE: Japan's trade deficit rose to a record 6.93 trillion yen ($78.3 billion) in 2012 as fuel imports surged 34 percent and a territorial dispute with China hammered its exports. That was up from a deficit of 2.56 trillion yen in 2011.
THE CULPRITS: Energy imports surged 34 percent after Japan's nuclear plants were taken offline following the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident in 2011. Exports have suffered from plunging demand in crisis-stricken Europe and troubles with China after a flare-up over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea prompted anti-Japanese protests last fall.
SOME HOPE: The trade deficit for December narrowed to 641.5 billion yen ($7.25 billion) from the 954.8 billion yen shortfall in November. That was despite a 5.8 percent drop in exports for the month.