Japan posts biggest January current account surplus since 2011


The current account surplus grew to ¥607.4 billion ($5.7 billion) in January, its highest for the month since 2011, thanks to strong exports in Asia, government data showed Thursday.

The surplus rose year on year for the first time in three months, marking a more than sixfold rise from the same month last year. It was also Japan’s 43rd consecutive month in surplus, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The data showed a goods trade deficit of ¥666.6 billion, showing red for the first time in eight months. But the deficit was smaller than in January 2017, thanks to strong car demand in China, the ministry said.

Higher crude oil prices pushed up imports, which rose 8.1 percent from a year ago to ¥6.89 trillion, while exports grew 12.7 percent to ¥6.22 trillion.

The surplus in the primary income account, which reflects how much Japan earns from foreign investment, came to ¥1.55 trillion, the largest for the month since 1985, the ministry said.

Japan has been running a surplus in the current account, one of the widest gauges of international trade, on the back of robust foreign investment income.

The travel surplus remained strong at ¥178.7 billion, setting a record for the month since comparable data became available in 1996, driven by an expanding tourism boom.

The service balance, which also includes passenger transportation and royalties, marked a deficit of ¥168.2 billion, smaller than the ¥216.2 billion deficit in January 2017 due to a rise in charges for the use of intellectual property.

Yuichiro Nagai, an economist at Barclays Securities Japan Ltd., noted that while the surplus for January turned out higher than expected due to an increase in exports and primary income, “we need to watch the figure together with that for February, as growth in exports could become lower due to the Chinese New Year.”

The holiday fell in late January last year.

“Higher natural resource costs will also continue to boost the overall value of imports, weighing on the trade surplus,” Nagai said.