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Japan’s merchandise trade surplus declined 11.8 percent in August from a year earlier to 614.8 billion yen for the second straight month of decline, as soaring crude oil prices boosted imports, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

Exports jumped 12.5 percent to 4.204 trillion yen, while imports surged 18.1 percent to 3.589 trillion yen, both rising for the 10th consecutive month, the preliminary report says.

A ministry official said imports will probably continue to outpace exports.

“Both exports and imports are on a widening trend . . . and imports will grow further. So it can be said that the trade surplus is unlikely to show a substantial rise down the track,” the official said.

The nation’s politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States grew 2.3 percent to 545.5 billion yen for the first upturn in four months, with exports up 3.9 percent to 1.208 trillion yen and imports up 5.3 percent to 662.6 billion yen.

In August, imports of crude oil surged 41.8 percent, with the average price per barrel rising to $29 from $18.50. Imports of semiconductors and related electronics parts rose 48 percent, followed by a 37.1 percent gain in imports of office equipment.

The ministry official attributed the rising imports to Japan’s nascent economic recovery and corresponding growth in demand.

Overall shipments were primarily helped by information technology-related products such as electronics parts and optical equipment for scientific use.

Manufactured goods accounted for 61.2 percent of all imports.

The yen averaged 108.73 to the dollar, up 6.6 percent from a year earlier. A strong yen is usually regarded as harmful to exporters as it reduces their overseas earnings in yen terms.

The merchandise trade balance, which is reported before adjustment for seasonal factors, is measured on a customs-clearance basis.

Japan’s trade surplus with its trading partners in Asia rocketed 49 percent to 331.2 billion yen for the fifth consecutive month of growth.

Shipments to the region rose 28.6 percent to 1.834 trillion yen, for the 15th consecutive month of growth, and imports expanded 24.9 percent to a record 1.5 trillion yen, for the 11th consecutive month of increase.

The trade surplus with the 15-member European Union amounted to 218.2 billion yen, up 7.9 percent, after posting a decline in July.

Exports to the EU increased 6.1 percent to 652.2 billion yen, after registering a dip the month earlier, and imports grew 5.3 percent to 434 billion yen, for the first upturn in three months.

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