Japan Posts 18th Straight Current-Account Surplus in December

Japan posted an 18th consecutive current account surplus as cheap energy imports continue to aid an economy that’s struggling to produce sustained growth and inflation.

The excess in the widest measure of the nation’s trade was 960.7 billion yen ($8.2 billion) in December, from 225.9 billion yen a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said Monday in Tokyo. The median estimate of 25 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a surplus of 1.05 trillion yen.

An influx of tourists and income from investments abroad has also helped in recent months. But overshadowing these positive contributions are a slowdown in exports and weak domestic demand. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect the economy to have contracted an annualized 0.8 percent in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

“Cheap oil is driving Japan’s current account surplus. Without it, we should keep in mind that the underlying trend isn’t strong,” Yasuhiro Takahashi, an economist at Nomura Securities Co., said before the data was released. “Once you take away oil, companies can’t be very confident about an increase of income from overseas.”

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