The nation’s current account surplus in fiscal 2000 decreased 4.5 percent from the previous term to 12.72 trillion yen, marking the second year of decline after a 16.7 percent fall was registered in fiscal 1999, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the Finance Ministry.

High oil prices during the 12 months between April 2000 and March became the primary factor that pushed up the value of imports, reducing the country’s trade surplus, a ministry official said.

It is difficult, however, to determine a trend for the current account — the broadest measure of trade — because its components showed mixed results, the official said.

The current account measures the difference between a country’s income from foreign sources and payable foreign obligations, excluding net capital investment.

The surplus in merchandise trade — exports minus imports — fell 16.1 percent to 11.55 trillion yen throughout fiscal 2000.

Exports increased 6.6 percent from the previous term to 49.81 trillion yen but were outpaced by imports, which marked a 16.1 percent year-on-year increase to record 38.26 trillion yen.

In fiscal 2000, crude oil prices averaged 19,613 yen per kiloliter, marking a 35.1 percent increase from fiscal 1999 for the second consecutive year of increase.

This pushed up the value of crude oil imports, which rose by 1.29 trillion yen, or 35.3 percent, from fiscal 1999, the official said.

Another factor that expanded imports in fiscal 2000 was an increase in imports of computers and electronic parts, including semiconductors from other Asian economies, which posted a 21.1 percent rise from fiscal 1999, the official said.

The deficit in the services account shrank by 723.4 billion yen to 5.2 trillion yen partly because Japanese who went abroad during fiscal 2000 spent less overseas. The stagnant income condition in Japan may explain the spending decrease, the official said.

The surplus in the income balance expanded by 777.9 billion yen to 6.65 trillion yen in fiscal 2000 due mainly to an increase in securities investment returns.

The deficit in current account transfers contracted by 145.4 billion yen to 938.1 billion yen in fiscal 2000, according to the figures.

As a result, the current account balance, which comprises trade and services, income and current account transfers, came to 12.72 trillion yen in the black in fiscal 2000, marking a 4.5 percent year-on-year decrease.

In March alone, the current account surplus posted a 0.6 percent year-on-year decrease to 1.3 trillion yen, marking the fourth consecutive month of decline.

The surplus in merchandise trade decreased 13.8 percent from the same month last year to 1.1 trillion yen.

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