TOKYO (AP) _ Japan's broadest measure of trade fell sharply in August compared to the same month a year earlier, the Finance Ministry announced Wednesday.

The current account surplus decreased to $7.47 billion (791.8 billion yen), a decline of 32.7 percent, the ministry said. The surplus was measured before adjustment for seasonal factors.

August's fall came after the surplus declined 2.7 percent in July from the previous year.

The August surplus was lower than the $9.12 billion estimate from Tokyo-based economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

The current account measures trade in merchandise, services, tourism and investment. It is calculated by determining the difference between Japan's income from foreign sources against payments on foreign obligations. It excludes net capital investment.

The huge surplus has been a constant source of friction with the United States and other trading partners. They have been urging Japan to boost its struggling economy to stimulate imports.

The surplus rose 17.6 percent in fiscal year 1998 to a record high of $124.59 billion for the 12 months to March 31.

The previous record was $123 billion set in fiscal 1992.