First-half trade surplus up 57%

Surge led by strong exports of cars and electronics

Japan’s customs-cleared trade surplus in the first half of fiscal 2002 jumped 56.8 percent on a year-on-year basis to 5.12 trillion yen, according to a preliminary report released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday.

The increase was attributed to favorable exports of automobiles and electronic components.

The increase in trade surplus — exports minus imports — during the April-September period marked an increase for two consecutive six-month periods, according to the ministry.

Ministry officials also attributed the increase in trade surplus to export growth to the rest of Asia.

“Exports to Asia have been growing,” a ministry official said. “In terms of contribution (to the increased trade surplus), exports to the region were very effective.”

Japan’s overall exports registered a 6.5-percent year-on-year increase to 25.9 trillion yen, the first increase in three six-month periods, while its imports declined 1.3 percent to 20.78 trillion yen, the second consecutive term of decline.

Automobiles were the largest contributor to the expanded exports, posting a 19.5 percent rise from a year earlier, according to the ministry officials. The exports of electronic components, including semiconductors, also grew 11.3 percent and steel exports increased 19.6 percent.

Imports dropped mainly due to the decreased imports of such items as crude oil, clothes and liquefied natural gas.

The trade data are measured on a customs-cleared basis before adjustment for seasonal factors.

The yen averaged 123.85 to the dollar in the half-year period, down 1 percent from a year earlier.

For Asia alone, the trade surplus jumped 141.8 percent on a year-on-year basis to 2.38 trillion yen, marking the first increase in four terms.

Exports to Asia soared 14.9 percent to 11.38 trillion yen, the largest figure on record. The ministry began compiling such statistics in the first half of fiscal 1980.

The rise in exports marked the first in three six-month periods. Exports of electronic components grew 20 percent and steel exports increased 35.2 percent, according to the report.

Imports from Asia increased 0.9 percent to 9.01 trillion yen.

The politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States increased 3.1 percent to 3.59 trillion yen, marking the first increase in three six-month periods.

Exports to the U.S. declined 0.5 percent to 7.27 trillion yen, while imports dropped 3.9 percent to 3.68 trillion yen. With the European Union, the trade surplus declined 4.5 percent to 1.01 trillion yen, the seventh consecutive term of decline.

Exports to the EU increased 0.1 percent to 3.74 trillion yen, while imports grew 2.1 percent to 2.67 trillion yen.

In September alone, the trade surplus rose 1.1 percent to 1.05 trillion yen, the seventh straight month of increase, according to the ministry.