Japan’s current account balance rebounded to a ¥1.1778 trillion surplus in February as exports to the United States improved, but remained 30.7 percent lower than the previous year, the government said Monday.
The balance, one of the widest measures of international trade, was supported by continued strength in the income account balance, which reflected larger benefits from firms’ foreign direct investment, the Finance Ministry said in the preliminary report.
But the services trade balance logged a deficit of ¥130.4 billion, ballooning from ¥31.9 billion last year, and the balance in goods and services trade posted a ¥28.3 billion deficit, sinking from a ¥688.4 billion surplus.
The goods trade balance logged a ¥102.1 billion surplus, the first black ink in five months but down 85.8 percent year on year. Exports meanwhile declined 2.0 percent to ¥5.2477 trillion while imports grew 11.1 percent to ¥5.1456 trillion.
In January, the current account balance logged its first deficit in three years as exports were slowed by the Europe’s flagging economy and sovereign debt crisis, imports soared on higher crude oil prices and surging consumption of liquefied natural gas to fuel thermal power generation and offset the drop in nuclear power from the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
For the reporting month, the balance improved on growing exports to the United States, where the economy has shown nascent signs of recovery. Vehicle exports, which plunged after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disrupted production, led the advance, helping the overall goods trade balance return to surplus, the ministry said.
Exports to Europe and Asia remained weak as the European downturn and related weakening of consumption weighed on manufacturing activity in emerging economies in Asia, which normally use Japanese components to make final products.
A ministry official noted the government is paying attention to the rapid deterioration in the goods trade balance.
“We have to see the possibility that (the balance) could continue to show stagnant outcomes,” the official said.
But the services trade balance, which reflects payment for travel, transportation and other costs, logged a deficit of ¥130.4 billion after ballooning from ¥31.9 billion a year before.
The plunge was linked to the fall in foreign tourists that followed last year’s triple calamity, especially the Fukushima disaster.
The balance of goods and services trade logged a ¥28.3 billion deficit after plunging from a ¥688.4 billion surplus. This is the fifth consecutive month of deficit, breaking the previous record of four months.
The income account, the biggest source of Japan’s current account surplus, came to ¥1.2430 trillion, up 3.9 percent for the 11th consecutive month of expansion, reflecting larger benefits for companies from their foreign direct investments, the ministry said. The balance also includes dividend payments on investments in foreign securities.
Bankruptcies ease 2.7%
Corporate bankruptcies in fiscal 2011 dropped 2.7 percent from the previous year to 12,707 cases, leaving ¥3.99 trillion in debts, down 15.5 percent, a credit research agency said Monday.
The number of bankruptcies in the year ended last month fell for the third consecutive year and slipped below 13,000 for the first time in 20 years, said Tokyo Shoko Research, which tracks failures with debts at ¥10 million or more.
The agency attributed the decline to special support for small businesses and government financial aid for companies damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Total debts fell below ¥4 trillion in a fiscal year for the first time in 21 years as major bankruptcies involving at least ¥1 billion in debt sank 23.0 percent to 424 cases, the lowest since fiscal 1990.
The number of publicly traded companies that went bust in fiscal 2011 was limited to four compared with 10 the previous year. Failures attributable to the March 2011 disasters numbered 682.
In March alone, bankruptcies fell 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 1,161 cases, the lowest for a month since 2005. But debts left by bankrupt firms climbed 23.6 percent to ¥333.93 billion for the fourth straight month of rises.