The nation’s customs-cleared trade surplus fell 57.9 percent from a year earlier in July to 420.70 billion yen, marking the 13th consecutive month of decline, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

The decline was attributed to lower exports of microchips and electronic measuring instruments combined with higher imports of crude oil and liquefied natural gas.

Exports slid 6.5 percent to 4.035 trillion yen for the fourth consecutive monthly slide, reflecting a 25 percent fall in semiconductor and other electronics parts and a 29.6 percent slide in electronic measuring equipment, including components for cellular phones, the ministry said in a preliminary report.

Imports rose 9.1 percent to 3.614 trillion yen for the 21st straight monthly gain, mirroring a 13.6 percent gain in crude oil and a 26.4 percent rise in LNG, which offset a 17.2 percent fall in microchips and other electronic parts and a 9.8 percent decline in office equipment, including personal computers.

“It’s difficult to predict the future trend because trade is affected by various factors such as foreign exchange and crude oil prices, but the trade surplus is not on an increasing trend for now,” a ministry official said.

Exports have been declining due to a worldwide economic slowdown, resulting in slower exports of IT-related products, the official said.

He said the value of imports is rising due to a weak yen but the volume of imports is slowing because of weaker demand for IT-related components. The official explained that Japanese companies are importing fewer IT-related components from their overseas subsidiaries as their exports of finished IT products slow down.

The yen averaged 124.43 against the dollar in July, down 14.5 percent from 106.34 a year earlier.

The politically sensitive surplus with the United States fell 0.5 percent to 618.83 billion yen for the seventh successive month of decline, with exports down 0.8 percent to 1.260 trillion yen for the fourth straight month of decline and imports down 1.2 percent to 641.43 billion yen for the second rise in a row.

The surplus with the 15-member European Union fell 57.3 percent to 109.16 billion yen, extending its falling streak to 11 months.

Exports to EU countries fell 14.6 percent to 572.62 billion yen for the fourth successive monthly fall, while imports from the region rose 11.7 percent to 463.46 billion yen for the eighth straight monthly rise.

The surplus with the rest of Asia plunged 77.2 percent to 101.42 billion yen for the eighth consecutive monthly slide, with exports down 10.8 percent to 1.620 trillion yen for the fourth straight monthly fall and imports up 10.8 percent to 1.52 trillion yen for the 22nd straight monthly gain.

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