• Kyodo

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Japan has posted its largest current account surplus for a half-year period since 2007 on the back of reduced imports due to lower crude oil prices and a rising number of foreign tourists, the government said Monday.

The surplus between January and June grew 31.3 percent from a year earlier to ¥10.63 trillion, the biggest since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, after crude oil imports dropped 38.2 percent in value terms, according to the Finance Ministry.

Japan has been relying heavily on energy imports since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster led most of the country’s commercial reactors to remain offline amid heightened public concern about their safety.

A current account balance is one of the widest gauges of international trade for a nation.

The balance of goods trade marked a surplus of ¥2.35 trillion, a turnaround from a deficit of ¥375.4 billion the previous year, with exports sliding 10.8 percent while imports plunged 17.8 percent from the previous year, the ministry said.

Looking ahead, Tsutomu Saito, an economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research, said Japan’s current account surplus is likely to expand moderately as exports have started to recover on a volume basis amid a recovery in overseas economies.

“While the yen’s appreciation is likely to cap rises in the primary income account and the travel surplus, the trade surplus is expected to grow at a moderate pace” in line with a rebound in Europe and other developed economies, Saito said.

In the six-month period, the surplus in the primary income account — which reflects how much Japan earns from its foreign investments — fell 7.9 percent to ¥9.61 trillion, as a firming yen reduced profits in foreign investments.

The yen rose against the U.S. dollar by 7.1 percent year-on-year in the reporting period to an average of ¥111.70.

On the back of a continued increase in the number of foreign tourists, the travel balance registered a surplus of ¥775.8 billion, the largest since comparable data became available in 1996.

In the period, the number of foreign visitors to Japan surged 28.2 percent to a record 11.71 million, while the number of outbound Japanese increased 3.8 percent to 7.91 million.

The service sector, also including passenger transportation and cargo shipping, registered a deficit of ¥209.9 billion, down sharply from a deficit of ¥933.3 billion a year earlier.

For June alone, Japan logged a current account surplus for the 24th consecutive month in June, with the balance standing at ¥974.4 billion. Goods trade registered a surplus of ¥763.6 billion.

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