• Kyodo News


The nation’s current account surplus fell 15.7 percent in November from a year earlier to ¥926.2 billion for the first decline in three months on growing imports amid rising commodity prices, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

It marked the first time in 10 months that the surplus in the current account balance, the widest gauge of international trade, had fallen below ¥1 trillion.

While the yen’s strength has continued to weigh on exports, a ministry official said there are two extraordinary reasons for the poor result, underlining the increasing value of commodity imports and the temporary sharp rise in flat-panel television imports.

The surplus in goods trade fell 46.6 percent to ¥259.7 billion , the second-straight monthly fall, with exports expanding 9.3 percent to ¥5.146 trillion for the 12th consecutive month of rise and imports up 15.7 percent to ¥4.886 trillion, marking the 11th straight month of growth.

Amid the appreciation of commodity prices, imports of iron ore rose 82.9 percent, while those of liquefied natural gas expanded 17.8 percent. The price of crude oil rose 10.0 percent in the same month year on year to $82.21 per barrel, according to the ministry.

Analysts say the trend is likely to continue in 2011, particularly warning of rising oil prices, which could choke the nascent recovery of the global economy.

Imports of audio and visual equipment climbed 44.4 percent. By breakdown, imports of plasma-panel and liquid crystal-display televisions — mainly from China and Malaysia — came to ¥73 billion, rising more than three times from the same month a year earlier.

This was due largely to a surge in demand before the government’s incentive program, which subsidizes the purchase of energy-efficient home appliances, expires in March, the ministry said.

“More companies, also including carmakers, have tended to manufacture abroad and export end products (to Japan),” a ministry official said, suggesting imports would continue to rise in longer terms.

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