efe-epaBy Mayumi Negishi Tokyo

Japan's exports tumbled for the sixth straight month in May, hit by a sharp drop in shipments of chip-making tools and automobile parts, amid heightened trade tensions between the US and China, according to a report by Dow Jones made available to EFE on Wednesday.

Japan's exports fell by 7.8 percent from the previous year in May - in line with a FactSet poll of economists - due to a decline in shipments of chip-making tools and semiconductor parts to China, data released by the Ministry of Finance showed Wednesday.

The weak exports, along with a surge in crude oil imports, translated to a 967 billion yen ($8.9 billion) monthly trade deficit, its first in four months.

Rising global economic uncertainty, and the broad slowdown in the global economy is hurting exporters of precision equipment, like Japan, which is home to the likes of Tokyo Electron Ltd., Dainippon Screen Manufacturing Co., Advantest Corp.and other major makers of machines.

Wednesday's trade data showed exports to China, Japan's biggest trading partner, fell almost 10 percent year-over-year. Shipments of chip-making equipment fell almost 28 percent, amid escalating pressure by the US on its allies to restrict use of China-made chips.

Exports to all of Asia fell 12 percent, as a global slump in chip demand hurt appetites of chip makers like South Korea's Samsung Electronics to invest in capacity expansion. Exports to Europe also fell by 7 percent on lower appetite for Japanese goods.

However, exports to the US rose 3 percent on strong demand for Japanese cars, expanding Japan's trade surplus with the US by almost 15 percent in May from the previous year. The data comes amid continued pressure from Washington on Japan for a bilateral trade deal.

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