Japan Posts Current-Account Surplus for 20th Straight Month

  • Primary income surplus rose to 2 trillion yen for February
  • Tourism and intellectual property rights boosted services

Japan posted a 20th consecutive current-account surplus, helping an economy that’s still struggling to rebound from a contraction in the final quarter of 2015.

The excess in the widest measure of the nation’s trade was 2.43 trillion yen ($22.4 billion) in February, the biggest surplus since March last year, according to data released Friday by the Finance Ministry. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a surplus of 2.03 trillion yen.

A combination of cheap energy imports, higher income from investments abroad by Japanese companies and an influx of foreign tourists have contributed to the surplus. A recent surge in the yen, which has strengthened about 11 percent this year threatens to erode some of the benefits exporters have received from the currency, and make Japan more expensive for tourists from abroad.

"The trend of a current-account surplus will probably continue for the time being as the decline in oil helps improve the trade balance and the income and travel surpluses are steady," said Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Corp. in Tokyo. "However, the downside risks to Japan’s economy are growing as the yen is rapidly strengthening at a time when domestic and external demand are weak."

The Japanese currency was trading at 108.91 per dollar at 10:32 a.m. in Tokyo after earlier touching 107.67 on Thursday, the strongest since October 2014.

The primary income surplus was 2 trillion yen. The excess in the services was 159.5 billion yen and was driven by tourism into Japan and intellectual property rights.

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