A large trade deficit led to a record 52.6-percent plunge in Japan's current account surplus for fiscal 2011, eclipsing the decline that occurred after the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
According to the Finance Ministry's preliminary balance of payments statistics released on May 10, the current account surplus totaled 7.8934 trillion yen ($98.9 billion), compared with 16.6 trillion yen for fiscal 2010. It was the largest decline since fiscal 1985, when comparable figures were first available.
Japan’s current account surplus for fiscal 2008 dropped by 49 percent over the previous fiscal year, mainly due to the global financial crisis triggered by the so-called Lehman Shock.
The larger decline in fiscal 2011 was caused not only by the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake, but also the European debt crisis.
Japan had a trade surplus of 6.4 trillion yen in fiscal 2010, but it recorded a trade deficit of 3.4 trillion yen in fiscal 2011, mainly because of the sharp rise in imported liquefied natural gas. Large amounts of LNG were needed as fuel for thermal power plants that were brought online to cover the loss of power generation from nuclear plants that had to suspend operations.
The decline in demand in Europe and Asia also meant a decrease in exports of electronic parts. Fiscal 2011 marked the first time Japan has recorded a trade deficit since fiscal 1979.
Meanwhile, Japan had an income surplus of 14.2883 trillion yen. The income sector includes transfers of interest and dividends from foreign securities and overseas subsidiaries of Japanese companies. An increase in dividends from those subsidiaries led to a 13.3-percent increase in the income surplus over fiscal 2010. That effectively covered the trade deficit and produced the surplus in the current account.
The services deficit, which is calculated by subtracting spending by Japanese who travel abroad from the spending by foreign tourists to Japan, was 1.8525 trillion yen, an increase of 45.5 percent from the previous fiscal year.
The number of foreign tourists to Japan declined out of concerns about the quake and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
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