Japan logs record trade deficit in 2012

Japan has said it logged a record trade deficit in 2012 as exports to debt-hit Europe plunged and a bitter diplomatic spat with its biggest trade partner China weighed on demand.

The gloomy numbers spell more bad news for the world's third-largest economy, as it struggles to cement a recovery after the 2011 quake-tsunami and the impact of an export-denting strong yen.

And the figures underscore the size of the task ahead for the new government, led by the hawkish Shinzo Abe, who campaigned on a pledge to turn around Japan's fortunes with big public spending and by pressuring the nation's central bank for more aggressive monetary policy.

Official figures from the finance ministry showed Japan's trade shortfall last year totalled US$78 billion, with the deficit in December alone standing at a higher-than-expected US$71.9 billion.

The data marked a second consecutive annual trade deficit.