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Japan’s trade surplus in the April-September period narrowed 2.5 percent to 3.9 trillion yen from a year before as higher crude oil prices boosted the value of imports, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

According to the ministry, the average price of crude oil rose 27.6 percent to $67.9 per barrel in the first half of fiscal 2006, and crude oil imports in value terms rose 34.3 percent to some 6 trillion yen.

Overall imports rose 17.7 percent to a record 33.49 trillion yen, led by surging oil prices.

Exports rose 15.2 percent to a record 37.39 trillion yen on rising demand for Japan’s fuel-efficient automobiles and copper to be used in products such as electric cables.

Exports to the United States rose 16.0 percent to a record 8.4 trillion yen due to strong automobile exports. The trade surplus with the U.S. jumped 22.3 percent to 4.4 trillion yen, the second-highest level since the second half of fiscal 1985, when the surplus was 4.6 trillion yen.

The trade surplus with the rest of Asia rose 4.0 percent to 3.49 trillion yen.

The deficit with China narrowed 11.2 percent to 1.38 trillion yen, due to an increase in exports of semiconductor and electronic devices.

In September alone, the overall trade surplus widened 6.9 percent to 1.01 trillion yen from a year before on brisk overseas demand for automobiles, steel products and electronics. It was the second straight year-on-year increase.

Exports rose 15.3 percent to a record 6.83 trillion yen from a year earlier.

Imports increased 16.9 percent to 5.81 trillion yen on higher oil prices.

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