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The country’s current account surplus increased 42.5 percent in the first half of fiscal 2002 from a year earlier to 6.96 trillion yen on the back of brisk exports to Asia, according to a preliminary report released Monday by the Finance Ministry.

The surplus in the April-September period marked an increase for two consecutive six-month periods.

But in September alone, it fell for the first time in 12 months, to 1.17 trillion yen, down 6.8 percent year-on-year. The drop was mainly due to recovering overseas travel by Japanese people, a factor that pushed up the deficit in the service account.

“It is difficult to predict (the trend) from now on since the outlook of the world economy is uncertain and (the details of) the antideflation package in Japan remain to be seen,” a ministry 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 transfers.

Led by an increase in exports to Asia, the surplus in goods-and-services trade in the April-September period came to 3.26 trillion yen, up 153.2 percent from a year before.

A surplus in merchandise trade — exports minus imports — increased 41.3 percent from a year earlier to 6 trillion yen, marking the first increase in seven terms.

Exports increased 6.2 percent from a year before to 24.56 trillion yen, the first increase in three terms, while imports declined 1.7 percent to 18.56 trillion yen, a decrease for the second consecutive term.

In the April-September period, the yen averaged 123.05 to the dollar, down 0.7 percent from 122.22 a year ago.

Crude oil prices stood at 19,886 yen per kiloliter during the same period, a 2.9 percent decrease from a year earlier.

The deficit in the services account decreased by 220 billion yen to 2.74 trillion yen since deficits in all three categories — transportation, travel and other services — shrank, mainly due to the decline in overseas travelers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Income balance surplus increased by 73.7 billion yen to 4.16 trillion yen, according to the report.

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