Japan's trade deficit more than doubled to a record ¥2.79T ($27.3B) in January from ¥1.3T in December and exceeded consensus of ¥2.49T.
Export growth slowed to 9.5% on year from 15.3% and sharply missed expectations of 12.6%.
Imports, though, soared 25% vs 24.7% and 21.8%, driven up by the weak yen and significant energy needs because of the closure of the nuclear-power industry.
The large trade deficit contributed to GDP expanding at a lower-than-expected 1% in Q4.
"If the economy weakens further after a sales tax hike (in April), policymakers could resort to fiscal stimulus as early as summer," says economist Yasuo Yamamoto.
However, the trade figures may have been affected by a rush to purchase foreign-made goods before the tax increase and by the Chinese New Year.
The Nikkei is -2.15% while the USD-JPY is -0.5% at ¥101.80. (PR)