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Japan’s current account surplus declined 25.2 percent from a year earlier to 4.99 trillion yen during the first half of 2001, the Finance Ministry said Monday in a preliminary report.

This was due mainly to a shrinking merchandise trade surplus provoked by the worldwide economic slowdown, the ministry said.

In June alone, the current account surplus declined for the seventh straight month to 771.2 billion yen, marking a 40.5 percent year-on-year decrease.

The first-half surplus saw its first decrease of more than 25 percent since the latter half of 1999, falling 28.5 percent, according to a ministry official.

It was also the second consecutive decline since the second half of 2000.

Besides the global slowdown, other factors contributing to the downturn include a comparative depreciation of the yen to the dollar and an intensifying transfer of the production divisions of Japanese manufacturers to other parts of Asia, the official said.

Whether the current account can rebound is difficult to determine, the official said, because the prospects of major economies, including the United States and Japan, are unclear.

The current account balance — the broadest gauge of trade — is the difference between a country’s income from foreign sources and foreign obligations payable, excluding net capital investment.

The surplus in merchandise trade — exports minus imports — marked a record-high year-on-year decrease of 36.2 percent to 4.18 trillion yen during the first half of the year.

While exports were down 1.2 percent from a year earlier to 23.79 trillion yen for their first fall in three terms, imports rose 11.9 percent to 19.6 trillion yen, the fourth straight term of increase.

Shrinking global demand led to a decline in exports of automobiles, ships and electronic parts such as semiconductors. Imports of textiles, cellphones and computers increased in the wake of a shift by manufacturers to other parts of Asia, the official said.

The yen’s depreciation against the dollar helped crude oil imports post a 10.7 percent jump, the fourth consecutive term of increase.

Oil prices averaged 19,560 yen per kiloliter during the first half of this year, a 10.5 percent increase from a year before.

The yen stood at an average of 120.46 to the dollar during the six-month period, a 12.7 percent depreciation from a year earlier.

The services deficit expanded by 284.6 billion yen to 2.74 trillion yen during the first half of 2001.

As a result, Japan’s surplus in the goods and services account marked a 64.8 percent year-on-year decrease to 1.44 trillion yen during the first half of 2001, the official said.

The income balance surplus meanwhile expanded by a record 909.6 billion yen to 4.03 trillion yen during the same period — mainly due to an increase in securities investment returns.

The deficit in current account transfers contracted by 65.3 billion yen to 482.3 billion yen during the period, according to the figures.

As a result, the current account balance — which comprises trade, services, income and current account transfers — posted a 25.2 percent year-on-year decrease to 4.99 trillion yen during the first half of 2001.

The surplus in merchandise trade in June was down 32.4 percent from a year before to 906.5 billion yen, marking as 12th straight month of decline.

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