The current account surplus in August expanded 22.2 percent from the previous year to 1.48 trillion yen, rising for the second consecutive month, as companies exported more and had higher returns on overseas investments, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

A cheaper yen might also have helped up the surplus, according to analysts. A lower yen makes Japanese products more attractive to foreign buyers and increases earnings from overseas.

The yen traded at an average 115.88 against the dollar in August, 4.7 percent weaker than a year earlier, the ministry said.

The surplus in goods and services trade was 176.9 billion yen, in sharp contrast to 35.6 billion yen the previous year, the ministry said in its preliminary report for August.

The surplus in merchandise trade increased 36.0 percent to 312.4 billion yen, for the first rise in three months, thanks to strong exports of automobiles, steel and nonferrous metals.

Overall exports climbed 17.3 percent from the prior year for a 33rd straight increase, with car exports surging 29.4 percent and steel exports up 19.8 percent. Nonferrous metal exports rose 75.1 percent.

Imports rose to a record 5.5 trillion yen, up 16.4 percent from the previous year. That figure was the highest on record, which the ministry started keeping in January 1985, according to one ministry official.

Imports of crude oil rose 32.1 percent in value terms because of record high oil prices, which averaged $71.8 per barrel in August on a customs-cleared basis, up 29.3 percent from the prior year.

The ministry official said the decline in crude oil prices since about mid-July probably will affect figures in the months to come, a hint that the trade surplus could widen.

Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities Co., said the August current account figure was in line with economists’ prediction. However, a recent economic slowdown in the United States, a major export destination, might contribute to narrowing the surplus in the coming months.

The income surplus, the net income from Japanese investments overseas, widened 11.1 percent to 1.38 trillion yen on the back of strong returns from foreign securities investment overseas, the ministry said. It said that figure was the second-largest recorded since 1985.

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