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Dollar-Based Trade Surplus Is at a Turning Point, Japan Officials Say : Commerce: And for the first time in eight months, the nation's surplus with the United States falls.

November 16, 1994|From Reuters

TOKYO — Japan declared Tuesday that its dollar-based trade surplus is at a turning point and headed for a decrease after shrinking for the third month in a row in October.

However, officials and economists said they do not expect future falls to be faster than in the August-October quarter because Japan's exports may grow steadily on strong overseas demand, outstripping the growth in imports.

October also marked the first time in eight months that Japan's dollar trade surplus with the United States fell.

The politically sensitive surplus with Washington fell 6.8% to an unadjusted $4.79 billion from a year ago.

The overall customs-cleared trade surplus fell to an unadjusted $9.28 billion in October from $10.93 billion a year earlier. That was within private economists' forecasts, which had ranged from $9.2 billion to $10.9 billion.

The trade surplus "is at a turning point. It has fallen year-on-year for three straight months, or one quarter," a Ministry of Finance official said after the release of the October data.

But the official added that it is not clear whether the surplus will fall without exception in future months, or whether its downward trend will be uneven.

After adjusting for seasonal factors, the October surplus widened to $8.65 billion from $8.46 billion a month earlier, the ministry said.

The official said the year-on-year decrease in October owed much to growing imports from the United States, the European Union and Asian nations.

The official said it was still unclear how much of a role currency fluctuations and oil prices played, but said imports were boosted mainly by purchases of automobiles, aircraft, clothing and semiconductors.

In volume terms, automobile imports doubled from a year earlier in October while vehicle exports grew 3.1%.

Imports of semiconductors and related parts grew 44% year-on-year in dollar terms. Imports of crude oil grew 13.1% year-on-year. The trend of replacing domestic products with imports is likely to continue, depending on the pace of a recovery in the domestic economy, economists said.

In October, exports totaled $34.62 billion; imports were $25.34 billion.

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