• Kyodo News


Japan’s current account surplus jumped 65.1 percent in March from a year before to ¥2.53 trillion as a continuing recovery in exports of such items as automobiles and semiconductors mainly to Asia helped improve the trade balance, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

For all of fiscal 2009, which ended March 31, the surplus grew 26.9 percent to ¥15.65 trillion, posting its first growth in two years, the ministry said in a preliminary report. In 2008 it fell at a record pace.

Both exports and imports for fiscal 2009 declined for the second year in a row.

Exports were sluggish for most of the year amid the global economic slump before bouncing back. Even though they were down for the year as a whole, the merchandise trade surplus recorded an increase in line with declining imports, which stemmed from a drop in crude oil prices.

Kiichi Murashima, an economist at Citibank Global Markets Japan Inc., said exports were increasing not only to Asia but also to other regions, including the U.S. and Europe, but he warned growth will likely slow in the months ahead.

“Exports have already showed signs of slowing,” Murashima said, noting the large boost to exports from progress in global inventory adjustments will come to an end.

The current account — the broadest gauge of trade — for March rose from February’s ¥1.47 trillion, the ministry said.

The surplus in goods and services trade widened to ¥1.09 trillion, up 606.8 percent from a year earlier.

The merchandise trade surplus rose 745.4 percent to ¥1.07 trillion, marking its biggest growth since comparable data became available in 1986.

The current account balance is the difference between a country’s income from foreign sources and foreign obligations payable, excluding net capital investment.

Exports were up 45.4 percent to ¥5.71 trillion, posting the fourth straight monthly increase, while imports expanded 22.0 percent to ¥4.63 trillion, increasing for the third consecutive month.

The surplus in services trade, which includes payments in transport and tourism, was ¥14.4 billion, down 46.8 percent, the ministry said.

The surplus in the income account, net income from Japanese investments overseas, declined 2.6 percent to ¥1.65 trillion, dragged down by a drop in direct investment abroad.

For the whole of fiscal 2009, the surplus in trade of goods and services totaled ¥4.78 trillion, marking the first surplus in two years.

The merchandise trade surplus rose 470.2 percent to ¥6.61 trillion. The increase is the largest since 1986.

Exports for fiscal 2009 dropped 18.0 percent to ¥55.54 trillion, falling for the second straight year. Imports fell 26.5 percent to ¥48.93 trillion, also marking the second straight year of decline.

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