• Kyodo

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Japan’s current account surplus contracted 48.2% in November from a year earlier, to ¥897.3 billion ($7.8 billion), declining for the fourth straight month as high energy prices continued to weigh on the trade balance, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

The current account balance, one of the widest gauges of international trade, logged a 17th consecutive month of black ink but was dragged down by the second-largest value of imports since comparable data became available, in 1996, according to a preliminary report released by the ministry.

Imports surged 44.9% in value terms to a total of ¥7.88 trillion, up for the 10th consecutive month and hitting their highest level since January 2014, with prices of crude oil and liquefied natural gas more than doubling due partly to the yen’s weakness, the data showed.

Exports grew 23.2% to ¥7.45 trillion, up for the ninth straight month, lifted by an 87.8% jump in steel shipments and a 44.7% rise in those of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment.

As a result, the nation’s trade balance posted a ¥431.3 billion deficit, following a ¥166.7 billion surplus in October.

The service balance saw a deficit of ¥214.2 billion, following red ink of ¥575.4 billion the previous month, due to a rise in marine freight costs amid a global shipping container shortage, a ministry official said.

Japan eked out a travel surplus of ¥14.9 billion, smaller than the ¥24.3 billion the previous year, with only 20,700 foreign nationals visiting the country — down 63.5% from a year earlier amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Primary income, reflecting returns on overseas investments, posted a surplus of ¥1.79 trillion, up 14.3% from a year earlier, partly helped by domestic companies receiving higher dividend payments from their investments in the stocks of overseas shipping firms.

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