Japan’s current account surplus shrinks on record imports By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Japan yen note is seen in this illustration photo taken June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s current account surplus shrank sharply in April as record imports overwhelmed exports, swinging the trade balance into the red, data showed on Wednesday, stoking some concerns about the country’s long-term purchasing power.

Japan’s current account surplus stood at 501 billion yen ($3.77 billion) in April, the data showed, down 628 billion yen from the same month a year earlier.

It was the third straight month of a surplus and broadly in line with economists’ median forecast for a surplus of 511 billion yen in a Reuters poll.

Surging fuel purchasing costs pushed up overall imports by 32.8% year-on-year to a record amount, outpacing export growth led by steel and car shipments.

The current account data underscored the change in Japan’s economic structure as the country earns hefty returns from its portfolio investment and direct investment overseas, which have replaced trade as a main driver of its current account gains.

Some analysts are concerned that Japan’s current account surplus may keep shrinking although it is backed by hefty returns on investment overseas, for now.

The current account surplus has been declining for four fiscal years in a row to March 2022.

Although a weak yen helped inflate the cost of imports, its boost to exports was not as great as it once was due to an ongoing shift of exporters’ production abroad.

($1 = 132.7800 yen)

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