Japan’s trade surplus jumped 12.5 percent in May from a year earlier, marking a second consecutive monthly increase, according to a preliminary report released Monday by the Finance Ministry.

Brisk exports to other parts of Asia were largely unaffected by fears over severe acute respiratory syndrome, the ministry says.

“The focus was whether SARS hit trade with China,” said Tatsuya Torikoshi, a senior economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd. “But the trade figures of China, Hong Kong or Taiwan did not show much impact.”

In this regard, he cited the relatively small number of people infected with SARS in China’s main production centers, such as Shanghai, compared with other infected areas, such as Hong Kong.

The nation’s overall customs-cleared trade surplus — exports minus imports — stood at 694.4 billion yen in May.

Its trade surplus with Asian nations was up 23.6 percent from a year earlier, coming in at 387 billion yen and extending its rising streak to a 15th straight month.

Meanwhile, Japan’s trade deficit with China, an increasingly important trade partner, fell 28 percent on a year-on-year basis to 154 yen billon, primarily because the nation’s prolonged economic slump slowed its imports from China.

The trade surplus with the European Union rose 29.6 percent to 204.8 billion yen, marking a fifth straight month of increase.

This was mainly due to a recent surge in the euro’s value against the yen, which helped boost the value of trade when profits were repatriated from overseas.

Yet the nation’s trade surplus with the United States dropped 1 percent to 512.9 billion yen, marking a fifth month of decline. This reduction derived partly from a U.S. economic slowdown that dented Japanese exports of automobiles to the nation.

Exports of cars to the U.S. fell 12.2 percent in the month, marking a fourth consecutive month of decline, the Finance Ministry said.

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