Japan's benchmark Nikkei index plunged more than eight per cent on Thursday before regaining some ground by the midday break.

Sluggish outlook

The September trade figures which underlined views that sluggish exports are pushing Japan's economy into recession still represented a turnaround from August when Japan logged the first in-effect deficit in nearly 26 years.

The resource-poor country spent slightly less on energy imports in September than it did in August, reflecting recent declines in crude oil prices.

The world's No 2 economy is saddled with high costs for oil, coal and natural gas, pushing up imports by 28.8 per cent amid a steady decline in overseas demand for Japanese goods.

Total exports rose slightly by 1.5 per cent as shipments of cars and consumer goods to North America and Europe fell, reflecting the spreading fallout of the global financial crisis.

For the April-September period, Japan's trade surplus shrank 85.6 per cent to $8.14bn.