The nation’s current account surplus for fiscal 1996 fell 24.3 percent from the year before to 7.18 trillion yen, logging the fourth straight annual decline, according to Finance Ministry figures released May 14.

It was the second-lowest figure since the current calculation format was introduced in 1985. The current account is the broadest measure of international trade.

The surplus in the trade-and-services balance plunged 67 percent to 1.9 trillion yen, dropping for the fourth consecutive year to its lowest level ever. Exports rose 9.5 percent to 44.83 trillion yen during the fiscal year, but that growth was overshadowed by a 22.4 percent surge in imports to 36.02 trillion yen. As a result, the trade balance registered a 23.6 percent decrease to 8.81 trillion yen, also the fourth straight year in which the figure shrank.

Growth was seen in automobile and office equipment exports, with cars up 20.4 percent and office equipment up 15.9 percent. On the import side, there were notable rises in oil, office equipment and natural gas imports. Oil rose 36.5 percent, office equipment 28.4 percent and natural gas 37.9 percent.

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