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Japan’s current account surplus for April came to 1.17 trillion yen, up 10.3 percent from the same month last year, marking the 13th consecutive month of year-on-year growth, according to preliminary figures released Monday.

But hit by Asian economic turmoil, exports declined 2.4 percent, the first drop in 33 months. A larger decrease in imports due to lower oil prices and sluggish domestic demand helped keep the current account in surplus, the Finance Ministry said.

The rate of increase of the current account surplus has been shrinking and will continue to shrink, a ministry official said. Imports fell 13.8 percent from April 1997, the fourth consecutive month of decrease. As a result, the balance in merchandise trade rose 35 percent to 1.36 trillion yen.

Among main import items, crude oil plunged 36.3 percent on a value basis because the price of crude oil was 38 percent lower than a year earlier. Imports of crude oil fell only 1.9 percent by volume.

As for exports, electronic parts such as semiconductors dropped 11.4 percent and auto parts fell 15.8 percent, both on a value basis.

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