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The nation’s customs-cleared trade surplus plunged 11.3 percent to 776.8 billion yen in February from the previous year mainly due to slack shipments of information technology goods, according to a preliminary report released by the Finance Ministry on Wednesday.

The surplus was down for the first time in two months, the ministry said.

Exports decreased 4.2 percent to 4.01 trillion yen for the 11th straight month of year-on-year decline, while imports dropped 2.4 percent to 3.24 trillion yen, for the seventh consecutive month of decline.

Exports of semiconductors and other electronics components tumbled 19.8 percent, while those of scientific optical equipment fell 38.8 percent.

On the other hand, exports of autos increased by 21.9 percent and those of ships by 54 percent. Imports of clothing rose by 19.1 percent and those of coal were up by 44.4 percent. But imports of crude oil dipped by 14.7 percent and those of semiconductors by 23.4 percent.

The trade data are measured on a customs-clearance basis before adjustment for seasonal factors. The data were also compiled on the basis of an average 133.31 yen to the dollar, compared with 116.59 yen a year earlier.

The politically sensitive trade surplus with the U.S. edged up 0.1 percent to 665.3 billion yen, up for the second straight month, with exports down 3.3 percent to 1.25 trillion yen and imports down 6.8 percent to 592.7 billion yen.

U.S.-bound exports of automobiles remained brisk, up 25.3 percent from a year earlier.

Exports of semiconductors and other electronics parts to the U.S., however, plunged 45.9 percent, while those of scientific optical equipment dropped 52.9 percent.

Imports of communications equipment from the U.S. fell 49.9 percent and those of semiconductors and other electronics components dropped 15.1 percent.

The surplus with the 15-member European Union fell 29.8 percent to 216.7 billion yen, down for the 18th month in a row, with exports down 15.6 percent to 620.9 billion yen and imports down 5.3 percent to 404.2 billion yen.

The trade balance with the rest of Asia dropped 37.9 percent to 179.5 billion yen, with exports down 5.1 percent to 1.561 trillion yen and imports up 1.9 percent to 1.382 trillion yen.

The Cabinet Office recently said in a monthly economic report that Japan’s overall decline in exports has shown signs of coming to a halt.

But a Finance Ministry official, who declined to be named, said Wednesday it is difficult to confirm such an improvement.

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