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Japan’s current account surplus expanded for the first time in three years in 2010 with exports recovering from a dip caused by the global financial crisis in 2008, government data showed Tuesday.

The surplus in the current account balance, the broadest gauge of trade, rose 28.5 percent from 2009 to ¥17.08 trillion, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The value of exports also booked the first rise in three years, up 25.7 percent to ¥63.92 trillion, due to expansion in fast-growing emerging market economies, including China and other Asian countries.

While imports grew 19.4 percent to ¥55.92 trillion, the balance of trade in goods logged a surplus of ¥7.99 trillion, up 98 percent for the second straight yearly growth.

“The data showed a recovery in overseas demand, especially from emerging economies,” said Yasuo Goto, chief economist at Mitsubishi Research Institute. “With the U.S. and European economies moving in a direction toward a recovery, the figures were totally positive.”

But he also pointed to some downside risks to Japanese exports and the current account surplus, particularly warning of a slowdown in U.S. consumption, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and rising inflation in emerging economies that could prompt a sudden tightening in monetary conditions there.

In December alone, Japan’s current account surplus expanded 30.5 percent from a year earlier to ¥1.19 trillion, the first rise in two months.

Exports grew 14 percent to ¥5.85 trillion, the 13th straight monthly expansion, while imports gained 12.8 percent to ¥5.08 trillion for the 12th consecutive monthly rise. The balance achieved a ¥768.8 billion surplus, up 23.2 percent for the first increase in three months.

The nation’s balance of trade in services also improved.

In 2010, the deficit in the balance, which covers such transactions as the payment of travel and transport costs, shrank to ¥1.48 trillion, its lowest level ever.

This represents a growing number of tourists visiting the country, especially from China, the ministry said. A rise in the royalty payment received by companies from their overseas partners also helped improve the services balance.

The balance of trade in both goods and services registered a surplus of ¥6.52 trillion, up more than threefold from 2009.

Surplus in the income account, covering such items as interest and dividend payments on investments by individuals and companies, dropped 5.5 percent to ¥11.64 trillion, shrinking for the third consecutive year, as companies operating abroad increasingly retained their profits rather than reinvesting them.

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