TOKYO — Japan Thursday posted a record trade deficit for fiscal 2011 as the quake-tsunami disaster and ensuing nuclear crisis sent car and electronics exports tumbling and energy imports soaring. The country’s trade shortfall hit 4.410 trillion yen (US$54.2 billion) in the 12 months to March, the finance ministry said, amid continuing worries about the recovery in the world’s third-largest economy. For decades, Japan enjoyed huge trade surpluses owing to its competitive cars, electronics and other exports. But demand for fossil fuels has surged in the resource-poor nation after last year’s natural disasters sparked the worst nuclear accident in a generation, leading the government to take most atomic reactors offline. At the same time demand from Europe suffered as the eurozone’s debt crisis rippled across the continent, one of Japan’s biggest export markets.
Over the year Japanese exports fell 3.7 percent to 65.282 trillion yen while imports soared 11.6 percent to 69.692 trillion yen, as worries mount that the country will face energy shortages this summer.