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TOKYO, Feb 8 AFP

February 08 2013, 1:05PM

Japan's current account surplus last year shrank to its lowest in almost three decades, as exports to China and Europe slumped in a worrying sign for the world's third-largest economy.

The finance ministry said the current account, the broadest measure of Japan's trade with the rest of the world, came in at Y4.7 trillion ($A49.02 billion) in 2012, the smallest annual surplus since 1985.

The current account measures not only international trade in goods but also services, tourism and Japan's foreign investments abroad.

The news was also poor for December, with the country logging a monthly deficit of 264.1 billion yen, reversing a year-earlier surplus of 265.7 billion yen.

That was the first deficit for the month of December since 1985 and the second straight month in negative territory.

The figures come after Japan last month said it logged a record trade deficit for 2012, the second consecutive annual trade shortfall.

The data are likely to heap renewed pressure on Japan's new government to fulfil an election pledge to reinvigorate the limp economy.

"Exports mainly to the EU and China declined, while imports mainly in mineral fuels and communication devices increased," the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The European Union's financial troubles hit demand for Japan-brand imports, while shipments to major trade partner China slumped due to a Tokyo-Beijing territorial spat, which sparked a consumer boycott of Japanese goods.

Tokyo's energy bills, meanwhile, have shot up after it turned to pricey fossil-fuel alternatives after switching off its nuclear reactors following the atomic crisis at Fukushima in 2011.