The nation’s current account surplus for the first six months of the year rose 40.4 percent from the same period last year to 5.05 trillion yen, logging the first increase since the January-June period of 1993, provisional figures released August 8 showed.
Finance Ministry officials attribute the surge to growth in the trade and services surplus, which marked a year-on-year rise of 76.8 percent to 1.98 trillion yen — also the first increase since the first half of 1993. But officials maintain that they do not believe there will be a major change in the declining trend in the trade account surplus seen over the past few years, due largely to structural changes in the economy, such as a shift to overseas production and more deregulation at home.
“However, while there will not be a significant increase (in the surplus), it is natural that there be short-term fluctuations, and we will continue to keep an eye on the figures,” one official said. He added that for the months from April to June, the surplus figures were affected by a 2-percentage point hike in the consumption tax beginning April.
The tax increase led to a decline in imports of products such as autos and clothing, while a drop in domestic demand enabled Japanese auto manufacturers to ship more abroad, he explained. Exports for the January-June months rose 15 percent from the same period last year to 24.09 trillion yen, while imports for the same period increased by 13.8 percent to 18.91 trillion yen.
Both exports and imports have been registering growth since the latter half of 1994. A notable increase was seen in the export of automobiles, which rose 32.5 percent in value terms and 22 percent in terms of volume.
On the import side, relatively large increases were seen for oil, office machines and liquid natural gas, which respectively grew 31.6 percent, 17.7 percent and 37.1 percent. In contrast, auto imports to Japan fell 11.1 percent in value and 14.5 percent in volume. Meat imports also slackened by 28.4 percent. The nation’s services deficit dipped 0.4 percent to 3.2 trillion yen due to factors such as a reduction in the deficit in the area of transportation.