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Trade surplus stays in the black at ¥2.9 tril.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan posted a customs-cleared trade surplus of ¥2,991 billion in 2017, the second straight year in the black, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report Wednesday.


The figure, however, shrank 25.1 percent from the previous year, when the annual trade balance turned positive for the first time since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and a subsequent nuclear disaster.


Imports rose faster than exports due to higher natural resources prices, causing the decrease in the surplus, ministry officials said.


Japan’s surplus with the United States, closely watched by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, rose 3.1 percent to ¥7,035.6 billion, marking the first increase in two years.


Japan’s overall exports advanced 11.8 percent to ¥78,289.7 billion, led by chipmaking equipment bound for South Korea and automobiles for the United States.


Imports grew 14.0 percent to ¥75,298.6 billion, the first rise in three years. Behind the strength were higher prices of crude oil produced in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as of coal and liquefied natural gas.


The yen’s weakness helped inflate both the exports and imports.


U.S.-bound exports rose 6.8 percent to ¥15,111 billion, on the back of robust demand for large vehicles and auto parts. Imports from the country grew 10.3 percent to ¥8,075.5 billion, as LNG and coal imports soared.


Exports to mainland China hit a record high of ¥14,891.4 billion, up 20.5 percent, due to strong demand for equipment to make liquid crystal panels for smartphones and other devices. Japan’s deficit with mainland China decreased 23.7 percent to ¥3,553.2 billion.


In December alone, Japan’s customs-cleared trade surplus fell 43.5 percent from a year before to ¥359 billion, staying in the black for the seventh consecutive month.


Exports rose 9.3 percent to ¥7,302.1 billion, and imports grew 14.9 percent to ¥6,943.1 billion.

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