The nation’s trade surplus fell 86.1 percent in May from a year earlier to 80.1 billion yen, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday in a preliminary report.

The fall was the 11th consecutive month of year-on-year decline in the customs-cleared trade surplus. Except for January’s 95.3 billion yen trade deficit, the latest figure marked the smallest surplus since the 62.9 billion yen logged in January 1996, a ministry official said.

Due to the U.S. economic slowdown and the subsequent cooling of global demand, Japanese exports in May declined in value and volume, prompting the government to maintain its vigilance regarding export trends, the official said.

Exports decreased 0.9 percent in May from the year before to 3.81 trillion yen, marking the second consecutive month of decline in value.

The decline resulted from a 9.9 percent year-on-year decrease in the volume of exports, which marked a fifth straight month of decline, the report says.

Exports of commodities related to information technology, such as semiconductors, posted a 15.9 percent slump on a value basis, the report says.

In contrast, imports registered a 14 percent year-on-year surge to 3.73 trillion yen, marking 19 straight months of increase.

This was due to the yen’s depreciation and a rise in oil prices in yen terms, which pushed up the value of imports, the official said. The yen averaged 122.56 to the dollar in May, compared with 107.32 a year before.

The politically sensitive trade surplus with the U.S. fell 15.9 percent to 390.6 billion yen in May, marking the fifth straight month of decline, with exports down 1.7 percent to 1.11 trillion yen and imports up 8.2 percent to 720.1 billion yen. The official said the decline in exports to the United States reflects that country’s economic slowdown.

Automobile exports to the U.S. fell 8.2 percent on a value basis and those of semiconductors and electronic parts were down 29.3 percent.

The U.S. slowdown also dampened Japanese exports to other parts of Asia, the official said. Exports to the region were down 1.4 percent to 1.6 trillion yen, marking the second consecutive month of decline.

In contrast, imports were up 15.2 percent to 1.55 trillion yen. As a result, Japan’s trade surplus with the region was down 84.1 percent to 43.2 billion yen.

The trade surplus with the 15-member European Union declined 32.3 percent to 151.6 billion yen in May, marking the ninth consecutive monthly fall, with exports dropping 2 percent to 616.9 billion yen and imports up 14.7 percent to 465.4 billion yen.

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