Japan Logs Largest Current Account Surplus in Decade in FY 2017

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TOKYO - Japan ran its largest current account surplus in a decade in fiscal 2017 on the back of increasing overseas earnings, government data showed Thursday.

The country logged a surplus of 21.74 trillion yen ($198 billion), up 3.4 percent from a year earlier, despite the rising cost of oil imports. The figure is the third highest since the Finance Ministry began gathering comparable data in fiscal 1985, trailing fiscal 2007's record high 24.34 trillion yen surplus.

The current account is one of the widest gauges of international trade. Among key components, the primary income account, which reflects how much Japan earns from foreign investments, logged a surplus of 19.91 trillion yen, a 6.3 percent increase from the previous year.

Japanese firms have ramped up activity in overseas markets in recent years, a notable example being SoftBank Group Corp's $31 billion acquisition of British chip designer ARM Holdings Plc in 2016. Takeda Pharmaceutical Co this week reached a $62 billion deal to take over Irish drugmaker Shire Plc.

A smaller deficit in services trade also helped push up the headline figure, reflecting a surge in tourism from abroad.

The travel surplus jumped 47.5 percent from a year ago to 1.93 trillion yen, the largest since comparable data became available in fiscal 1996. In fiscal 2017, the number of foreign visitors to Japan soared 19.9 percent from a year earlier to 29.77 million.

Meanwhile, Japan's goods trade surplus shrank 20.8 percent to 4.58 trillion yen as the rise in imports outpaced growth in exports.

A rise in the price of commodities such as crude oil and natural gas pushed up imports by 13.4 percent to 73.72 trillion yen, while exports gained 10.6 percent to 78.31 trillion as demand for cars and manufacturing equipment expanded, particularly in the rest of Asia.

In March alone, Japan posted a current account surplus of 3.12 trillion yen, up 4.2 percent from a year earlier and marking the 45th straight month of black ink.

The primary income account registered a surplus of 2.11 trillion yen, while goods trade logged a 1.19 trillion yen surplus.


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