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Japan’s current account surplus will grow 9.6 percent to 14.618 trillion yen in fiscal 2003, the second-largest figure ever, thanks to record exports led by electrical equipment and automobiles, a group of trading houses said Wednesday.

In the fiscal year to next March 31, merchandise exports will total a record 51.154 trillion yen on a balance of payments basis, up 2.1 percent from the previous year, the Japan Foreign Trade Council said.

Machinery exports will remain solid, led by strong growth in electrical equipment exports, the council said.

But imports are expected to fall 1.4 percent to 38.018 trillion yen, down for the first time in two years, with weakening domestic demand dampening imports of products such as textiles and automobiles, it said.

The council’s projections are made on the assumption that the world economy will grow a real 3 percent in 2003, with the U.S. economy rising 2.2 percent.

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