Travel surplus breaks record in April, lifting current account surplus to decade high


Japan posted a current account surplus of ¥1.95 trillion ($18 billion) in April, the highest for the month since 2007, as the travel surplus swelled to a record high even as the trade surplus shrank, government data showed Thursday.

A current account surplus was posted for the 34th straight month, and the travel surplus came to ¥177.9 billion, the largest ever, as the number of visitors to the country hit a record 2.58 million in the month.

Among key components in the current account, one of the widest gauges of a country’s international trade, goods trade registered a surplus of ¥553.6 billion, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

Increased exports to other Asian countries also contributed to the trade surplus, which was increasingly squeezed by a surge in the value of energy imports.

Robust overseas demand and a pickup in private consumption helped the economy grow for a fifth straight quarter, the longest growth run since 2006.

“We saw the trade surplus shrinking, but it’s unlikely to drop sharply because it’s hard to imagine crude oil prices going higher and higher,” said Yuichiro Nagai, an economist at Barclays Securities Japan.

Crude oil imports surged 61.0 percent from a year earlier, with prices averaging $53.90 a barrel, the data showed.

Overall imports jumped 14.0 percent to ¥5.63 trillion in value, while exports increased 10.0 percent to ¥6.18 trillion.

The country relies heavily on imports of crude oil and other resources, with most of its nuclear power plants remaining offline since the 2011 nuclear crisis.

The surplus in the primary income account, which reflects how much Japan earns from foreign investments, stood at ¥1.85 trillion, up 5.9 percent from a year earlier, after income grew from direct investment.

The services sector, including passenger transportation and cargo shipping, registered a deficit of ¥294.7 billion, smaller than a year ago thanks to the increased travel surplus.

“Japan’s current account surplus is expected to stay at high levels, supported by its trade surplus, an improvement in the services balance, and solid growth in primary income,” Nagai said.

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