• Kyodo

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Japan posted a more than sixfold increase in its current account surplus in April, to ¥1.32 trillion ($12 billion), as the trade balance swung back into the black due to a surge in exports compared with a year earlier, when the COVID-19 pandemic stalled economic activity, the Finance Ministry said Tuesday.

The current account, one of the widest gauges of international trade, remained in the black for the 82nd month in April, helped by a rise in investment returns, according to the ministry’s preliminary report.

A year-on-year increase of ¥1.12 trillion in the current account surplus is the largest since August 2015, a ministry official said.

April saw a larger rise in exports than in imports in terms of value, translating into a trade surplus of ¥289.5 billion. The figures are a reversal from the ¥926.9 billion deficit logged a year earlier, when shipments from Japan slumped amid the spread of COVID-19 that led to a state of emergency in the country and lockdown measures overseas.

Among items that pushed up the country’s exports by 38.0% from a year ago, to ¥6.83 trillion, were cars and auto parts, apparently reflecting a recovery in auto demand in key markets such as the United States and China. Amid a global shortage of chips, shipments of semiconductor-making equipment increased.

Imports jumped 11.3% to ¥6.54 trillion, lifted by a rise in crude oil and petroleum products.

Another key component of the current account, primary income, gained 7.3% to ¥2.18 trillion, as Japanese companies received dividend payments from their overseas subsidiaries, according to the Finance Ministry.

As the pandemic continued to depress travel demand, however, Japan saw its travel surplus shrink to ¥16.0 billion from ¥22.4 billion a year earlier. The travel balance shows the amount of money foreign tourists spend in Japan versus Japanese spending abroad.

The services trade balance came to a deficit of ¥954.8 billion, expanding from ¥787.8 billion in the red.

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