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Japan trade surplus tumbles in 2017

Japan trade surplus tumbles in 2017
January 24, 2018

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's trade surplus dropped 25.1 percent last year as higher energy bills eclipsed some of the revenue from robust exports of electronics-related goods and automobiles, government data showed Wednesday.

The world's third-largest economy logged a surplus of 2.99 trillion yen ($27 billion) in 2017, down 25.1 percent year-on-year, the finance ministry said.

But it still marked a second straight year of surplus, and a move away from years spent in the red after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The drop was driven by a 14.0 percent increase in imports, though exports also jumped 11.8 percent, the ministry said.

The yen was on average 3.1 percent cheaper against the US dollar last year compared to the previous year, making Japan's imports costlier, the ministry added.

Japan's often politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States edged up 3.1 percent on increased exports of automobiles and car-related products.

For decades into the 1990s, the two countries battled over their trade flows, but the balance has become less of a hot-button issue under recent US administrations, with China's trade surplus a greater concern for Washington.

In December alone, Japan's trade surplus dropped 43.5 percent to 359 billion yen as imports of crude oil and telecommunication products increased.

The market had expected a 520 billion yen surplus for December.