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Japan Feb. current account surplus logs 1st fall in 7 months

This file photo shows Japan's Finance Ministry in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's current account surplus for February marked the first year-on-year decrease in seven months, mainly due to a rebound in imports from a slump seen a year ago due to the coronavirus outbreak in China and weak exports, government data showed Thursday.

    The current account balance, one of the widest gauges of international trade, logged a surplus of 2.92 trillion yen ($27 billion), down 4.7 percent from the previous year while registering the 80th straight month of black ink, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

    The country's goods trade surplus more than halved to 524.2 billion yen from 1.36 trillion yen in the black the previous year, mainly due to an 11.8 percent rise in imports to 5.55 trillion yen for the first increase in 22 months.

    Imports from Asian nations expanded 36.9 percent, with a government official telling reporters that those from China, the first major economy severely impacted by the virus outbreak, have largely recovered.

    The novel coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, forcing manufacturers to halt production in the world's second-largest economy in early 2020.

    Exports dropped 4.0 percent to 6.08 trillion yen, down for the first time in three months, with sluggish demand in auto exports to the United States as well as in mineral fuel shipments to Australia.

    The services trade balance posted a deficit of 75.7 billion yen, reduced to less than one-third from the previous year's red ink of 269.9 billion yen.

    In the service trade category, the travel surplus nosedived 46.3 percent to 21.1 billion yen as continuing international travel bans amid the pandemic have had a huge impact on the number of inbound visitors. But the pace has slowed compared to the 91.6 percent decline logged in January.

    The surplus in primary income, which reflects returns on overseas investments, grew 25.0 percent from the previous year to 2.63 trillion yen, boosted by an increase in returns on direct overseas investments, the official said.

    The ministry had previously said the current account surplus in January stood at 646.8 billion yen, down 2.3 percent from a year ago, marking the first decline in five months. But an annual revision tweaked the figure to 644.4 billion yen in the black, up 16.8 percent.

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