’96 surplus declines 31% for third straight fall

Japan’s current account surplus for calendar 1996 fell 30.9 percent from the previous year to 7.18 trillion yen, marking the third straight year of decline, according to preliminary statistics released Feb. 10.

Since the introduction of the current calculation system in 1985, it is the lowest annual figure to be logged since the 6.474 trillion yen in 1990, Finance Ministry officials said. The surplus in the trade and services account plunged 66.4 percent during the year to 2.339 trillion yen, the lowest level ever under the present system. This figure is less than a fifth of the 12.961 trillion yen it marked at its peak in 1986.

Ministry officials said they expect the current account surplus to continue its downward spiral given the fact that imports are still increasing at a higher pace than exports. The trade account surplus for the year totaled 9.115 trillion yen, 26.2 percent lower than the previous year and the lowest figure since 1985.

While exports grew 8.2 percent to 43.572 trillion yen, imports soared 23.4 percent to 34.456 trillion yen — both marking a third consecutive year of increase. Auto exports in value terms rose for the first time in four years, increasing 10.7 percent on a year-on-year basis.