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The nation’s current account surplus expanded for the fifth month in a row in February, marking a 3.9 percent year-on-year increase to 1.41 trillion yen, according to a preliminary report released Thursday by the Finance Ministry.

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

The increase was due to recent increases in the income balance, which centers on Japanese firms’ foreign investment returns, a ministry official said.

February’s income balance surplus posted the 14th consecutive month of increase, to 896.1 billion yen — the second-largest amount since the ministry began using its current statistical method in 1985.

By contrast, the surplus in merchandise trade — exports minus imports — decreased 11.4 percent to 907.7 billion yen in February, marking the first decline since December.

Exports decreased 4.3 percent from a year earlier to 3.82 trillion yen, outpacing the fall in imports, which posted a 1.9 percent year-on-year decline to 56.6 billion yen.

The official, however, said February’s trade surplus contraction is largely tied to seasonal factors, adding that recent downtrends in the nation’s trade surplus seem to be slowing. January’s trade surplus had registered an increase for the first time in 19 months.

In February, the yen averaged 133.52 against the dollar, a 15.1 percent depreciation compared to 116.04 a year ago.

Crude oil prices stood at 16,648 yen per kiloliter during the same month, a 9.8 percent decrease from a year earlier.

The deficit in the services account decreased by 35.1 billion yen to 324.5 billion yen in February mainly because the number of Japanese tourists abroad decreased 20.9 percent from a year before, the official said.

The surplus in the income balance, worth 896.1 billion yen, is the second-largest on record after the 917.5 billion yen registered in March 1993, the official said.

Current account transfers came to a 65.4 billion yen deficit.

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