Japan current account surplus surges in March

Japan on Wednesday logged a more than 20-fold surge in its current account surplus in March thanks to an improving trade picture and buoyant returns on the country's investments abroad. The 2.80 trillion yen ($23 billion) figure was well up from the 131 billion yen a year earlier, and marked the nine monthly surplus in a row, according to official data. The latest figures were also the biggest since March 2008. Japan's current account is the broadest measure of its trade with the rest of the world, including both goods and services, tourism and returns on foreign investment, which jumped 30 percent in March from a year ago. The data comes after Japan posted its first monthly trade surplus in almost three years as North American exports soared and energy bills fell, giving a psychological boost to Tokyo's attempts to revive the flagging economy. Japan's trade balance in March recovered to a 671 billion yen surplus, reversing a 1.18 trillion yen deficit, the finance ministry said Wednesday, "as the volume of crude oil imports declined despite falls in prices and as the value of imports significantly declined". The import decline was partly due to the Chinese Lunar New Year coming in late February this year, rather than January, meaning shipments from Japan's major trading partner fell. "The surge in the current account mostly reflects a return of the trade balance into surplus," Capital Economics said in a commentary. "However, we think that the March trade surplus was inflated by the unusually late timing of Chinese New Year." Japan's trade balance had been wallowing in the red owing to its heavy dependence on importing fossil fuels to generate electricity after it shut its stable of nuclear reactors in response to the 2011 tsunami-sparked Fukushima atomic accident.