TOKYO Jan 30 Japan imported more gold that it shipped overseas in December, the first time the country has been a net importer on a monthly basis since July 2010.
Imports totaled 3,429 kilograms (kg) in December, while the country exported 1,544 kg, leaving it with net purchases of 1,885 kg, according to customs data released by the Ministry of Finance on Thursday.
It was only the tenth time that Japan has been a net monthly buyer of gold since the end of 2005, the last year the country was a net importer on an annual basis.
Japanese holders of gold have been selling jewellery and bars to pay for other purchases and spending, including on children's education, amid the stagnant economic growth and deflation that the country is now emerging from.
Japan remains a net exporter on an annual basis and shipped more than 50 metric tonnes of gold overseas last year, according to the customs data.
Spot gold fell about 0.4 percent on Thursday to $1262.56 an ounce as buyers from China, the world's biggest importer, stayed away from the market in advance of the Lunar New Holiday
Gold dropped 28 percent last year on an improving global economy, and in anticipation of a cut in U.S. monetary stimulus. (Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)