Japan's Current Account Surplus Dives 48.8%

Japan's current account surplus in September plunged 48.8 percent from a year earlier as import growth far outpaced export growth in the face of a global slowdown, the Finance Ministry said Tuesday.

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The surplus in the current account -- the broadest measure of Japan's trade with the rest of the world -- stood at 1.5 trillion yen ($15 billion), marking the seventh consecutive month of year-on-year declines, the ministry said.

Exports in September edged up only 2.1 percent to 7.04 trillion yen ($71 billion), while imports rose 32.7 percent to 6.8 trillion yen ($68.6 billion) on the back of skyrocketing oil prices.

"The value of exports grew very modestly because of a prolonged slump in global demand, especially in the United States," said Hideki Matsumura, senior economist at Japan Research Institute. "But we saw surging growth in imports mainly due to soaring oil prices, resulting in a decline in the current account surplus."

The value of oil imports in September jumped 62 percent year-on-year, the ministry said, adding that oil prices for the month were up almost 70 percent from a year earlier. Japan depends on imports for nearly 100 percent of its oil supply.

Exports to the United States dropped 10.9 percent and those to the European Union also fell 9 percent in September. Asia-bound shipments grew just 2.8 percent in the month. Exports alone account for about 18 percent of Japan's economy.

Among exported goods, auto parts shipments fell 14.3 percent, underlining weakening global demand for cars.

In the six months to September, Japan's current account surplus declined 37 percent year-on-year to 7.86 trillion yen ($79 billion), the ministry said.

Exports grew 3.1 percent to 41 trillion yen ($414 billion), while imports posted a stronger 17.8 percent increase to 39.4 trillion yen ($400 billion) during the six months.

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