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The customs-cleared trade surplus fell 25.4 percent in February from a year earlier to 879.4 billion yen for the eighth consecutive monthly decline, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report Wednesday.

The surplus was a turnaround from the trade deficit of 95.3 billion yen posted in January.

In the latest reporting month, exports edged up 1.5 percent to 4.197 trillion yen, while imports rose 12.2 percent to 3.318 trillion yen. It is the 16th month in a row that both segments have risen year on year.

In contrast with the percentage figure, however, the volume of exports actually declined due to the slowdown in the U.S., a ministry official said.

Imports were relatively brisk, mainly in information-technology related sectors, because of strong domestic demand despite the stalled economy, the official said.

Rises in crude oil prices had in the past been a major factor in boosting imports, but did not contribute greatly to the import rise in February, the official said.

Crude oil prices in February averaged $25.10 a barrel, down from $25.90 from a year before.

The yen averaged 116.59 to the dollar in February, compared with 107.11 a year earlier.

The politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States fell 2.8 percent to 667.4 billion yen for the second consecutive monthly decline, with exports up 3.9 percent to 1.302 trillion yen and imports up 12 percent to 634.4 billion yen.

In trade with the U.S., aircraft imports surged 203.8 percent because of purchases of large aircraft, which were not reported a year earlier.

The trade figures are tallied on a customs-clearance basis before adjustment for seasonal factors.

Japan’s trade surplus with other parts of Asia fell 28.3 percent to 289.5 billion yen, down for the third consecutive month.

Exports to Asia rose 3.9 percent to 1.644 trillion yen for the 21st straight month of rise, while imports rose 15 percent to 1.355 trillion yen, up for the 17th month in a row.

Food exports to Asia surged 53.1 percent, due primarily to food aid to North Korea.

Japan’s trade surplus with the 15-member European Union fell 16.4 percent to 308.7 billion yen for the sixth consecutive month of decline, with exports falling 1.1 percent to 735.3 billion yen and imports rising 14 percent to 426.6 billion yen.

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