Current account surplus at record low

Trade deficit spikes as fuel imports surge

Kyodo

Japan’s current account surplus was at a record-low ¥2.721 trillion in the first six months of fiscal 2012, plunging 41.3 percent from the year before, on shrinking exports and increasing imports of fuel, the Finance Ministry announced Thursday.

The surplus in one of the widest gauges of a country’s international trade was the smallest logged in a fiscal first half since comparable data became available in 1985, the ministry said.

The goods trade deficit expanded by ¥1.389 trillion to ¥2.619 trillion from April to September, the biggest amount seen in any half-year period, according to the ministry’s data.

The value of exports slid 0.9 percent to ¥30.98 trillion, due mainly to slowing exports amid the eurozone debt crisis and the slowing Chinese economy, which saw exports to Europe fall some 16.2 percent and 8.2 percent to China year on year.

Imports expanded 3.4 percent to ¥33.60 trillion on larger purchases of crude oil and natural gas as utilities boosted consumption after rebooting thermal power stations while their nuclear reactors continued to remain idle.

In September alone, the surplus fell 68.7 percent to ¥503.6 billion as exports of such products as vehicles slowed and the services trade deficit expanded, the ministry reported. But the figure still managed to remain in the black for the eighth straight month.

The balance of services trade, which includes travel payments and transportation costs, posted a deficit of ¥1.68 trillion during the six-month period, a 64.9 percent spike from last year’s ¥1.019 trillion and expanding for the third consecutive first-half period on increased shipment costs.

The income account, which reflects Japan’s earnings from its direct foreign and portfolio investments, expanded 2.1 percent to ¥7.502 trillion, which was attributed mostly to an increase in reinvested earnings.