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The nation’s customs-cleared trade surplus in May jumped to 619.2 billion yen, up 714.9 percent from a year earlier, according to a preliminary report released Thursday by the Finance Ministry.

This marked the third consecutive month of growth, triggered by a worldwide recovery in production, the report says.

The politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States grew 33.7 percent, up for the second straight month, with exports to the U.S. showing their first increase in 14 months.

A ministry official attributed the year-on-year trade surplus surge to an extremely low trade surplus level in May 2001 of 76 billion yen.

Exports increased 8.8 percent to 4.15 trillion yen, showing growth for the second straight month, while imports declined 5.6 percent to 3.53 trillion yen, down for the 10th consecutive month.

Exports of automobiles and information technology products increased, while imports of liquefied natural gas and petroleum products declined.

Automobile exports jumped 33.2 percent and those of electronic components, including semiconductors, increased 12.2 percent on a year-on-year basis. Steel exports grew 25.1 percent.

Imports of LNG dropped 23.4 percent, while those of petroleum products fell 25.3 percent, although aircraft imports grew 203 percent.

“Against the backdrop of a recovery in production worldwide, exports increased in both amount and volume in May. It is notable that exports of IT-related products helped increase (exports) in Asia,” the official said.

At the same time, the official said, it is difficult to predict future trade surplus trends because these figures are affected by foreign-exchange rates, crude oil prices and economic conditions both at home and abroad.

The yen averaged 128.73 to the dollar in May, down 4.8 percent from a year earlier.

The trade data are measured on a customs-cleared basis before adjustment for seasonal factors.

The surplus with the U.S. increased 33.7 percent to 519.6 billion yen, showing the first increase in two months.

Exports to the U.S. increased 5.5 percent to 1.17 trillion yen, marking the first growth in 14 months, while imports declined 9.6 percent to 652.6 billion yen, down for the 12th straight month.

Exports of automobiles jumped 33.6 percent and those of image equipment, including digital cameras, increased 28.5 percent. Imports of communications equipment dropped 75.1 percent and those of meat declined 32.9 percent.

The trade surplus with the rest of Asia jumped 312.9 billion yen, up 626 percent from a year earlier.

Exports to the region grew 15 percent to 1.84 trillion yen, marking growth for three consecutive months, while imports declined 1.9 percent to 1.53 trillion yen, down for the third straight month.

The trade surplus with the European Union grew 11 percent to 158.1 billion yen, marking the first increase in 21 months.

Exports declined 3 percent to 590.8 billion yen, down for the 14th consecutive month, while imports also dropped, by 7.2 percent to 432.6 billion yen, the first decline in two months.

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