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Japanese Exports Decline in Wake of Twin Disasters

A worker walks past a Toyota Motor Yaris sedan at Central Motor Co's new factory in Ohira village, Japan, April 16, 2011

The damage to Japan's economy from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is showing up in newly released trade figures.

The Japanese Finance Ministry announced Wednesday that exports fell by 2.2 percent in March, compared to the same month a year earlier. It was the first decline in 16 months.

Analysts warned that the situation will likely worsen in the months ahead as exporters use up existing stock and are unable to resume full production.

The ministry said shipments of automobiles plunged 28 percent, while exports of electronic devices such as semiconductors dropped more than six percent.

The twin disasters destroyed or damaged scores of factories across northeastern Japan and curtailed electricity supplies nationwide, crippling production and supply chains.

The decline in exports wiped out much of Japan's trade surplus for the month. The Finance Ministry says the surplus stood at $2.3 billion in March, nearly 80 percent lower than a year before.

Japanese exports to the United States dropped 3.4 percent in March. Shipments to China climbed 3.8 percent, while exports to the European Union rose 4.3 percent.