Slump in Japan exports continues
Car exports to the US have been very badly hit
Japan's slump in exports continued in May, as overseas consumers bought fewer of the country's cars, electronics and other goods.
Exports were down 40.9% from the same month a year ago, adding to doubts about the possibility of a quick recovery from the global recession.
Japan did see its trade surplus grow to the highest level in a year.
But analysts said this was largely due to fewer imports as Japanese consumers cut their spending in the weak economy.
"Overall exports remained depressed, which squarely reflected the ongoing economic downturn," said Yu Ooki, an official in the finance ministry which released the data.
Japan's shipments to China showed little sign of improvement.
And exports to the US, the world's largest economy, fell 45.4% from a year earlier.
In further bad news for the likes of Toyota and suppliers of car parts, vehicle exports to the US fell 54.8%.
The decline in Japanese exports could deepen later in the year because of lingering uncertainty over prospects for recovery in the US economy, said Hiroshi Watanabe, an economist at Daiwa Institute of Research.
"Japan's exports heavily depend on US consumer demand but we have yet to see signs showing a solid recovery of the US economy," he said.
Earlier this month, figures showed that Japan's economy shrank less than previously thought in the first three months of the year, but that it still contracted at a record pace.
Gross domestic product (GDP) - the sum of the nation's goods and services - shrank by 3.8% in the quarter.