Japan’s Account Surplus Soars
TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s current account surplus, a key barometer of the nation’s trade, soared 224.3 percent in January from the same month last year for the fourth straight increase.
Releasing the figures Thursday, the Finance Ministry said the surplus increased to 709 billion yen ($5.5 billion) on the year. Behind the rise was a 424.4 percent surge in the trade surplus component, due largely to a sharp decline in imports and relatively strong, though still falling, exports.
A strong surplus had been expected, but the actual figure exceeded expectations. Economists surveyed by Nikkei News and Dow Jones Newswires estimated it would rise to 557.9 billion yen ($4.32 billion).
The current account balance is the difference between Japan’s income from foreign sources and payments on foreign obligations. It is considered the broadest yardstick of trade, measuring exchanges of goods, services, tourism and investment before adjustment for seasonal factors.
The surplus broke a nine-month decline in September and has since started to expand, helped by a decline in imports and a rise in the income surplus as Japanese investors draw in more interest payments from increased foreign bond holdings.
The ministry said that exports fell 2.9 percent in January, a much narrower decline than the 11 percent slide in imports.
Japanese exports to many Asian nations generally decrease in February as businesses close for the extended Chinese New Year holidays. In 2001, however, Chinese New Year fell in January, denting exports to the region and making exports in January 2002 appear strong in comparison, the ministry said.
As with previous months, the income surplus component benefited from a rise in income from overseas bond investments and from profits from the overseas operations of Japanese electronic and auto manufacturers, the ministry said.
The income surplus rose 5.7 percent to 743.5 billion yen ($5.76 billion) from 703.3 billion yen ($5.45 billion) the same month a year earlier.
Last month the ministry announced that the surplus fell 12 percent to 11.06 trillion yen ($83.2 billion) in 2001.