Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK

Business: The Economy

Bad news: a record trade surplus

Japan's unemployed crowd the job centres as the economy struggles

Japan's economy has chalked up a record trade surplus during the year ending on 31 March 1999, rising 17.6%.

However, the figures are not proof of the country's economic strength but are a sign of its troubles, as they are caused by weak domestic demand.

The Japanese Finance Ministry said the current account surplus - Japan's broadest measure of trade - climbed to 15.227 trillion yen ($124bn, 76.6bn). This is about $1bn above the record set in 1992.

The surplus is actually below the ministry's predictions, but even this is a bad sign, as the 'shortfall' was caused by a larger-than-expected fall in exports, despite the stronger dollar.

Exports dropped 4.5%, as goods and services worth $389bn left the country. Hardest hit were exports to Asia, while shipments to the United States and the European Union were actually rising slightly.

Imports, meanwhile, plunged 12.9% to $258bn.

Stronger demand?

The government's massive spending plans, though, could soon change the picture.

A ministry official said: "It is always difficult to talk about the outlook ... but the conclusion ... is that it's unlikely for the current account surplus to grow bigger and bigger."

Masaaki Suzuki, economist at the Fuji Research Institute, said the "government_s steps are taking effect on the economy, with public works and housing investment clearly picking up lately.

Tomoko Fujii, a senior economist at Nikko Salomon Smith Barney, agreed, but said: "The question is how long the effects of past stimulus steps will be sustained"

He warned that "further stimulus steps will be needed in the latter half of this business year".

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

The Economy Contents

Internet Links

Japanese Finance Ministry

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Inquiry into energy provider loyalty

Brown considers IMF job

Chinese imports boost US trade gap

No longer Liffe as we know it

The growing threat of internet fraud

House passes US budget

Online share dealing triples

Rate fears as sales soar

Brown's bulging war-chest

Oil reaches nine-year high

UK unemployment falls again

Trade talks deadlocked

US inflation still subdued

Insolvent firms to get breathing space

Bank considered bigger rate rise

UK pay rising 'too fast'

Utilities face tough regulation

CBI's new chief named

US stocks hit highs after rate rise

US Fed raises rates

UK inflation creeps up

Row over the national shopping basket

Military airspace to be cut

TUC warns against following US

World growth accelerates

Union merger put in doubt

Japan's tentative economic recovery

EU fraud costs millions

CBI choice 'could wreck industrial relations'

WTO hails China deal

US business eyes Chinese market

Red tape task force

Websites and widgets

Guru predicts web surge

Malaysia's economy: The Sinatra Principle

Shell secures Iranian oil deal

Irish boom draws the Welsh

China deal to boost economy

US dream scenario continues

Japan's billion dollar spending spree