Japan logged first trade surplus in six years in fiscal 2016, at ¥4 trillion

Japan posted its first trade surplus in six years in fiscal 2016, standing at ¥4.01 trillion ($37 billion), as the value of imports fell sharply amid persisting low oil prices, government data showed Thursday.

With the yen showing an average 10 percent appreciation against the dollar, Japan also saw the value of its exports drop for the year to March 31, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

Imports tumbled 10.2 percent from a year earlier to ¥67.52 trillion, for the third consecutive year of decline, as crude oil and liquefied natural gas imports continued to slide. Exports dropped 3.5 percent to ¥71.52 trillion, down for the second straight year.

Resource-poor Japan relies heavily on energy imports, particularly after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdowns, which prompted the nation to seek more fossil fuels as most of its nuclear power plants remained off-line amid heightened safety concerns among the public. But lower energy prices have helped take pressure off Japan’s trade balance.

Japan’s imports of crude oil fell 16.1 percent in the reporting year and those of liquefied natural gas plunged 26.6 percent.

In March alone, Japan reported a ¥614.7 billion trade surplus, for the second straight month of black ink.

Exports grew 12 percent to ¥7.23 trillion, for the fourth consecutive month of expansion, helped by growth in auto parts shipments. Imports surged 15.8 percent to ¥6.61 trillion on increased oil and coal imports.

The figures were measured on a customs-cleared basis.

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