• Kyodo

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The country’s current account surplus for November rose 29.0% from a year earlier, up for the third straight month, on a sharp decline in imports with continued falls in energy resource prices, government data showed Tuesday.

The current account balance, one of the widest gauges of international trade, registered a surplus of ¥1.88 trillion ($18 billion), staying in the black for the 77th consecutive month, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

In the reporting month, the country’s goods trade balance came to a surplus of ¥616.1 billion, up from a ¥20.0 billion deficit in the previous year, logging black ink for the fifth consecutive month.

Imports decreased 13.6% to ¥5.42 trillion due to falling prices of crude oil and liquefied natural gas, while exports slid 3.4% to ¥6.04 trillion as demand for mineral fuels and steel was dampened.

November saw a bigger growth of the current account surplus than the 15.7% increase in October and 3.6% climb in September, as economic activity resumed after the government in late May completely lifted its first state of emergency over the virus, declared in early April.

The figure had posted year-on-year decreases for six months in a row until August, including an 89.6% plunge in June.

Among other key components, the services trade balance in November marked a deficit of ¥181.6 billion compared with a surplus of ¥176.9 billion a year before, largely affected by the continued drop in the travel balance surplus as strict travel restrictions to curb the virus spread remained across the world.

The travel balance reflects the amount of money foreign visitors spend in Japan versus Japanese spending abroad. It saw a ¥27.6 billion surplus in November, down 87.9% from ¥228.0 billion a year earlier.

Primary income, reflecting the net flow of profits, interest and dividends from investments in other countries, marked a surplus of ¥1.72 trillion, up 17.8%, helped by an increase in bond interest received by investors in Japan.

In November, Japan saw the start of a third wave of virus infections with daily numbers of cases continuing to rewrite record levels.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday declared another state of emergency in the Tokyo metropolitan area effective from the following day to Feb. 7, raising uncertainty over the economic outlook.

The declaration requests residents to stay home and service providers such as restaurants, department stores and entertainment facilities to shorten their operating hours.

Japan is set to expand the declaration later this week to Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, according to government and ruling party sources.

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