Exports, the main engine of economic growth last year, climbed 1.5 percent from a year earlier, after rising 0.3 percent in August, the Finance Ministry said today in Tokyo. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predicted a 5.1 percent increase.
Japan's government this week acknowledged that the world's second-largest economy has probably entered its first recession in six years. Global stock markets have lost $14 trillion in value since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Ltd. in September spurred a worldwide financial crisis.
Exports to China rose 1.7 percent in September from a year earlier and shipments to Asia climbed 2.9 percent, the Finance Ministry said. Exports to the U.S. dropped 10.9 percent and shipments to Europe fell 9 percent.
Imports surged 28.8 percent, the fastest pace in more than two years, as energy costs remained higher than a year earlier, even after easing since July. That caused the trade surplus to shrink 94.1 percent to 95.1 billion yen ($973 million). Economists expected the gap to narrow to 574.6 billion yen.
Manufacturers have also been hurt by the yen's appreciation. Japan's currency has risen 10 percent against the dollar and 35 percent versus the euro since August.
Companies are cutting production and hiring plans in anticipation that the financial crisis will stifle demand for Japanese products.