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The current account surplus fell 20.2 percent in April from a year earlier to 1.28 trillion yen, its first decline in three months, due mainly to higher oil prices and a rise in the services trade deficit, the Finance Ministry said Monday.

The balance of trade in goods and services posted a surplus of 258.5 billion yen, down 65.0 percent, the ministry said in a preliminary report.

The trade surplus fell as the balance of trade in services posted a deficit of 497.1 billion yen, up 31.2 percent, year-on-year.

The surplus in merchandise trade shrank 32.4 percent to 755.6 billion yen.

“The slowing pace of trade growth was a big factor, but what is noteworthy for this reporting month is the increase in the services trade deficit,” a Finance Ministry official said.

The official said the deficit was probably inflated by special factors, pointing out that many companies made huge grants to their overseas subsidiaries in the form of research and development expenditures, for example.

Exports rose for the 29th straight month to 5.84 trillion yen, up 11.4 percent from a year earlier, backed by strong auto and semiconductor sales.

Auto exports increased 17.5 percent to 144.7 billion yen and chip exports climbed 10.9 percent to 37.8 billion yen.

Imports rose for the 26th consecutive month to 5.08 trillion yen, up 23.2 percent, due mainly to a rise in crude oil prices. The import bill was the second-highest level on record.

Imports of crude oil jumped 65.6 percent in value terms to 419.5 billion yen in the reporting month, with crude oil prices surging 26.0 percent from a year earlier.

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