Current account surplus continues for 19th month on cheaper oil, tourism surge


Japan posted a current account surplus for the 19th consecutive month in January, the government said Tuesday, with declining crude oil prices driving down imports and a growing number of foreign tourists helping to push travel further into the black.

The surplus in one of the widest gauges of a country’s international trade stood at ¥520.8 billion, up more than fivefold from ¥101.8 billion a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said.

Among key components in the account, goods trade posted a deficit of ¥411.0 billion, with exports falling 15.4 percent from a year earlier to ¥5.36 trillion amid a slowdown in China and other emerging economies. Imports slid 19.8 percent to ¥5.77 trillion.

The value of crude oil imports fell 43.4 percent as average oil prices plunged 41.6 percent to $37.01 per barrel in the month. The value of liquefied natural gas imports dropped 55.4 percent.

Japan has been relying heavily on energy imports since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster led to a broadly observed nuclear freeze.

The travel surplus expanded about threefold to ¥134.7 billion, a record high since comparable data became available in 1996, as the number of foreign tourists grew 52 percent in January from a year earlier to 1.85 million, according to the ministry.

The service balance, which also includes passenger transportation, logged a deficit of ¥226.7 billion, smaller than ¥376.2 billion in red ink a year earlier.

The surplus in the primary income account, which reflects how much Japan earns from foreign investments, fell 6.2 percent to ¥1.33 trillion, as a firming yen against the euro reduced interest receipts from euro-denominated bonds, a ministry official said.

In the reporting month, the yen remained almost flat year-on-year at an average 118.25 versus the dollar, but rose 6.5 percent to 128.33 against the euro.