Japan's trade deficit surged to a monthly record of 2.8 trillion yen ($27.4 billion) in January as imports jumped 25 percent, underscoring the challenge the country faces in restoring export-driven growth, AP reported. A weakening in the Japanese yen over the past year has failed to boost exports as much as hoped while imports of oil and gas, food and other products have surged. Consumers and businesses are thought to be stepping up purchases ahead of an April 1 sales tax hike. The Finance Ministry reported Thursday that exports rose 9.5 percent from a year earlier to 5.25 trillion yen ($51.5 billion) while imports were 8.04 trillion yen ($78.8 billion). The previous record monthly deficit was 1.63 trillion yen, in January 2013.