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The nation’s current account surplus, the broadest measure of trade, decreased 17.6 percent in July from a year earlier to 1.08 trillion yen as imports outpaced exports, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday by the Finance Ministry.

The surplus in the current account, which measures not only trade but investment flows and cash transfers as well, has been on the decrease for three months in a row after a 40.2 percent rise was registered in April.

Factors underlying the recent shrinking surplus in goods-and-services trade — the main ingredient of the balance — are unlikely to change in the near future, a ministry official said.

These factors are higher oil prices and the gradual improvement seen in the economy, both of which boost imports, and the yen’s appreciation, which may reduce exports, the official said.

The average yen-based oil price in July was 53.6 percent higher than a year earlier at about 19,590 yen per kiloliter, while the nation’s gross domestic product in the April-June quarter posted 1 percent growth in real terms.

The surplus in merchandise trade — exports minus imports — fell 15.5 percent in July from the same month a year earlier to 1.16 trillion yen, according to the figures.

While exports rose 1.9 percent to 4.14 trillion yen, imports were also up 10.8 percent to 2.98 trillion yen, shrinking the current account surplus.

Exports to both the United States and the European Union decreased in July, while imports from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe steadily increased in the same month, the official said.

Both exports and imports increased for nine straight months, even though imports have been generally stronger during the period.

Meanwhile, the service deficit came to 458 billion yen in July, down 84.6 billion yen from a year earlier, according to the figures.

The shrinkage stems partly from increased royalties and licensing fees for Japanese firms from their foreign competitors and overseas operations.

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