• Kyodo

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Japan’s current account surplus for September fell 31.1% from a year earlier, down for the second straight month, as the trade balance worsened mainly due to sluggish car exports and higher energy import costs, the Finance Ministry said Tuesday.

The current account balance, one of the widest gauges of international trade, marked a surplus of ¥1.0 trillion ($9.1 billion), logging a 15th consecutive month of black ink, the ministry’s preliminary report showed. In August, the surplus posted a 21.8% decline.

The country’s goods trade balance registered a deficit for the second successive month with ¥229.9 billion in red ink, down from a ¥906.7 billion surplus in the previous year.

A ministry official attributed the trade deficit to a 40.3% year-on-year drop in car exports and increased purchases of energy resources pushed up by surging crude oil prices as well as medicines as demand for coronavirus vaccines grew.

The sagging car exports resulted from output reductions by Japanese automakers due to supply chain disruptions caused by factory shutdowns in Southeast Asia amid surging coronavirus cases and the prolonged global semiconductor shortage.

The services trade balance posted a deficit of ¥257.0 billion, deteriorating from ¥208.3 billion a year earlier. The travel surplus shrank to ¥15.2 billion from the previous year’s ¥20.8 billion due to international travel restrictions amid the pandemic that continued to suppress the number of inbound travelers.

Meanwhile, the surplus in primary income, which reflects returns on overseas investments, rose 13.9% to ¥1.8 trillion, as Japanese firms received more dividend payments from their overseas subsidiaries due to boosted energy prices, the official said.

The ministry had previously said that Japan’s current account balance was in the black for 86 straight months in August. But an annual retroactive revision on a component of its primary income saw the balance in June last year turn red, according to the official.

For the April-September period, Japan ran a current account surplus of ¥8.0 trillion, up 39.8% from the same period last year.

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