• Kyodo

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Japan’s current account surplus grew 50.3% in the first half of 2021 from a year earlier to ¥10.5 trillion ($95 billion), boosted by a remarkable improvement in exports from a slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Tuesday.

Among key components, the goods trade balance marked a ¥2.3 trillion surplus, a turnaround from the previous year’s ¥973.5 billion deficit, as exports of cars, auto parts and other items rebounded in line with a strong recovery in the global economy from a pandemic-induced slump in early 2020.

Also lifted by brisk shipments of semiconductor-producing equipment amid a global chip crunch, exports soared 22.2% to ¥39.2 trillion.

Imports expanded 11.6% to ¥36.9 trillion on the back of higher materials prices such as nonferrous metals and iron ore, the Finance Ministry said.

The year-on-year rise of 50.3%, or ¥3.5 trillion, in the current account surplus for the six-month period was the sharpest increase on a value basis since a ¥4.8 trillion jump in the second half of 2015, the ministry said.

The surplus of ¥10.5 trillion in the current account balance, one of the widest gauges of international trade, surpassed the pre-pandemic level of a ¥10.3 trillion surplus in the first half of 2019, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the services trade balance, which includes cargo shipping and passenger transportation, registered a ¥2.1 trillion deficit, deteriorating from a ¥1.9 trillion deficit a year ago.

The latest services trade deficit was the worst since the ¥2.3 trillion of red ink in the latter half of 2012.

The travel surplus of ¥105.5 billion was far below the ¥1.4 trillion and ¥420.7 billion logged in the first halves of 2019 and 2020, respectively, as many countries have kept tight international travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic.

The travel balance reflects the amount of money foreign visitors spend in Japan versus how much Japanese spend abroad.

“Last year, the impact from the coronavirus on the number of overseas tourists (to Japan) was hardly felt in January before (the pandemic) began to emerge in February. But this year, there have been almost no visitors from the start,” a ministry official said.

Primary income, which reflects returns on overseas investments, posted a surplus of ¥11.4 trillion, up 6.6%, to log the largest amount of black ink since comparable data became available in 1985.

In June alone, the current account surplus increased more than sixfold to ¥905.1 billion from a year earlier, staying in the black for 84 months.

That month the nation registered a goods trade surplus of ¥648.5 billion, and a services trade deficit of ¥346.4 billion. Primary income logged a surplus of ¥680.5 billion.

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