Japan’s current account surplus surged 33.6 percent in August from a year earlier to 1.44 trillion yen due to growth in exports and a drop in overseas tourism, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

The current account surplus, the broadest gauge of trade in goods and services, rose for the second straight month, following a 34.6 percent increase in July.

The current account is calculated by determining the difference between income from foreign sources and payments on foreign obligations, excluding net capital investment. It measures trade in goods, services, tourism and investment.

According to the preliminary report, the balance of trade in goods and services in August registered a surplus of 654.0 billion yen, up 65.6 percent.

This was partly due to a 20.3 percent increase to 954.1 billion yen in the surplus in merchandise trade. Exports rose 6.7 percent to 4.10 trillion yen, outpacing growth in imports, which increased 3.2 percent to 3.15 trillion yen.

Although exports to the United States fell 7.8 percent, those to the European Union expanded by 6.6 percent and those to other parts of Asia rose 13.9 percent.

The chronic deficit in the balance of services trade shrank 24.7 percent from a year earlier to 300.1 billion yen, reflecting a drop in the number of Japanese traveling overseas.

A Finance Ministry official said the plunge was due to the lingering effects of the SARS outbreak and the Iraq war.

“Overseas travel dropped in the runup to the Iraq war as well as after the SARS outbreak, and their effects are still lingering,” the official said.

The income account, which includes income from Japanese investments in foreign securities, registered a surplus of 828.1 billion yen in August, up 8.0 percent from a year earlier.

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