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The current account surplus shrank 55.6 percent in February from a year earlier to ¥1.12 trillion, sinking for the 12th straight month as exports continued to plunge and the nation’s investment returns kept falling amid the global economic downturn, the government said Wednesday.

The current account balance — the broadest gauge of trade — swung back to the black after posting a record fall in January.

In February, exports and imports posted the largest drops on record, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report. Comparable year-on-year data became available in January 1986.

The balance of trade in goods and services posted a surplus of ¥53 billion, down 94.3 percent from a year before, but the balance returned to the black for the first time in five months.

The surplus in merchandise trade fell 80.4 percent from a year earlier for the 16th straight monthly decline to ¥202.1 billion, but the balance was back in the black for the first time in four months.

Exports fell 50.4 percent to ¥3.31 trillion, down for the fifth month in a row, as shipments of vehicles, semiconductors and auto parts continued to plummet.

Imports tumbled 44.9 percent to ¥3.11 trillion, down for the fourth consecutive month.

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