The nation’s surplus in the broadest gauge of trade in goods and services in February declined 8.7 percent from a year earlier to 1.35 trillion yen, marking the third consecutive month of year-on-year decreases, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday in a preliminary report.
Japan’s shrinking trade surplus combined with a slowdown in the global economy to play a major part in the decline of the current account surplus, a ministry official said.
February’s drop was more moderate than the 59.7 percent plunge in January, but it is difficult to determine a trend, the official said.
The current account measures the difference between a country’s income from foreign sources and its foreign obligations payable, excluding net capital investment.
The surplus in merchandise trade — exports minus imports — declined 20 percent from a year earlier to 1.03 trillion yen in February. Although exports posted a modest 1.3 percent year-on-year rise to 4 trillion yen, they were outpaced by imports, which grew 11.5 percent from a year earlier to 2.97 trillion yen.
Exports of ships plunged 32.9 percent in February while automobile exports fell 2.7 percent.
Imports of semiconductors and other electronic parts surged 38.5 percent.
Japan’s trade surplus has been declining for eight months in a row since July.
Crude oil prices in February rose 5.6 percent from a year before, with prices during the month averaging 18,428 yen per kiloliter.
The yen averaged 116.04 to the dollar during the month. On a year-on-year basis, this marked a 6.1 percent depreciation.
The deficit in the services account expanded by 30.6 billion yen to 366 billion yen in February, largely due to an increase in the number of Japanese who went abroad on foreign airlines, the official said.
The surplus in the trade and services account contracted by 30.2 percent from a year before to 661.7 billion yen in February.
Meanwhile, the surplus in the income balance expanded by 131.2 billion yen to 723.1 billion yen in February due mainly to an increase in securities investment returns.
The deficit in current account transfers shrank by 27.8 billion yen from the same month last year to 38.7 billion yen, according to the figures.
As a result, the surplus in the current account, which combines these accounts, posted an 8.7 percent decline to 1.35 trillion yen in February.
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