Current account surplus surged 49% in August

Japan’s current account surplus in August increased 48.9 percent from a year earlier to 1.08 trillion yen, according to a preliminary report the Finance Ministry released Thursday.

While the figure marked the 11th straight month of increase, the data also indicated that strong growth in exports is beginning to wane, reflecting an economic slowdown overseas, according to the ministry.

“Current account surplus continued to grow on a year-on-year basis,” a ministry official said. “However, the (August) figure indicates that the growth in exports has lost the strength that was seen before.”

The current account is the broadest gauge of trade, measuring the difference between the country’s income from foreign sources and foreign obligations payable, excluding net capital investment.

The current account combines trade, services, income and current transfers.

Led by increased exports to Asia and the European Union, the surplus in goods-and-services trade came to 380.8 billion yen, turning into the black from a 39.8 billion yen deficit registered in August 2001.

A surplus in merchandise trade — exports minus imports — increased 62.4 percent from a year earlier to 797.1 billion yen, marking the sixth straight month of increase.

Exports increased 5.2 percent from a year before to 3.84 trillion yen, an increase for five straight months, while imports declined 3.7 percent to 3.04 trillion yen, decreasing for the 13th consecutive month.

Although exports to Asia and the European Union grew, exports to the United States declined. Overall, exports of automobiles and electronic components increased, while exports of copying machines declined.

In August, the yen averaged 119.01 against the dollar, a 2.1 percent appreciation compared to 121.61 a year ago.

Crude oil prices stood at 19,492 yen per kiloliter during the same month, a 10 percent decrease from a year earlier.

The deficit in the services account decreased by 114.4 billion yen to 416.2 billion yen. Deficits shrank in all three categories — transportation, travel and other services.

The income balance surplus decreased by 78 billion yen to 782.2 billion yen, according to the report.