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Wednesday, March 11, 1998 Published at 11:03 GMT


Japanese trade surplus soars

Japan's current account trade surplus in January soared 213% from the same month last year, the Finance Ministry has revealed.

It was the 10th successive year-on-year rise.

The surplus, which was not adjusted for seasonal factors, totalled 476.2 billion yen ($3.75bn). That was below a 574.9 billion yen ($4.53bn) forecast by economists surveyed by Dow Jones.

The latest numbers reflect the low demand for imports in Japan due to a sluggish economy and recent weakness in the yen's value against the US dollar, which has made Japanese exports more competitive overseas.

Japan has faced growing pressure from the US and other major trading partners to trim its surplus by implementing economic policies designed to stimulate domestic demand.

A Ministry of Finance spokesman said: "Although Asia-bound exports are falling due to the economic slowdown, exports to the US and Europe are maintaining their firmness, thanks to relatively firm economic growth.

"As a result, exports maintained their firm trend.

"On the import side, as uncertainties are strong about prospects for the domestic economy, imports themselves remained weak."

Although Japan's external surplus is likely to continue rising, year-on-year for the time being, in line with the recent trend, the surplus is "not likely to rise sharply in the mid to long term, as the economy itself is expected to start recovering eventually, thanks to the government's economic stimulus measures". the official said.

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