Thanks to growing exports, the nation’s current account surplus expanded for a seventh straight month in April, marking a 21.7 percent year-on-year increase to 1.08 trillion yen, according to a preliminary report released Thursday.

In April, the surplus in merchandise trade, or exports minus imports, was up 18.9 percent from a year earlier to 1 trillion yen, rising for the second consecutive month, according to the report by the Finance Ministry.

A ministry official attributed the trade surplus increase to an improvement in exports riding the recent global economic recovery. In April, exports rose 1.3 percent to 4.16 trillion yen, marking their first rise in 13 months.

Asian-bound exports, regarded as the driving force behind Japan’s economic recovery, expanded 8.8 percent to 152.8 billion yen.

In contrast, imports were down 3.2 percent to 3.16 trillion yen in April, pushing up the trade surplus, the official said.

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.

In April, the yen averaged 131.01 against the dollar, down 5.8 percent from 123.83 a year ago.

Crude oil prices stood at 19,251 yen per kiloliter for the month, marking a 4.7 percent decrease from a year earlier.

The deficit in the services account contracted 101.4 billion yen to 542.1 billion yen, mainly because the number of Japanese traveling abroad decreased, a trend since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

The surplus in the income balance shrank for the first time in 16 months to 670.3 billion yen. But the recent expansion of the income balance surplus remains unchanged, the official said.

The income balance centers on firms’ foreign investment returns. In recent months, Japan’s income surplus has come to equal its trade surplus, reflecting the nation’s changing economic structure resulting from domestic manufacturers’ transfer of production abroad.

Meanwhile, current account transfers in April came to a minus 47.9 billion yen.

As a result, the overall current account surplus in the month expanded by 21.7 percent to 1.08 trillion yen.

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