TOKYO, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Japan's current account surplus in October contracted a year-on-year 39.4 percent to 1.2 trillion yen (10 billion U.S. dollars), down for the third consecutive month, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.
The current account balance marked black ink for 16 consecutive months, buoyed by solid primary income including returns on overseas investments, according to a preliminary report released by the ministry.
The current account balance is regarded as one of the widest gauges of international trade.
By components, exports marked a year-on-year 11.7 percent rise to 7.1 trillion yen (62.6 billion dollars), as shipments of steel surged 80.1 percent on high prices and exports of semiconductor-producing equipment jumped 45.1 percent amid a global chip shortage.
Meanwhile, the sluggish auto exports, however, took a hit from the semiconductor shortage as well as the supply disruptions of other vehicle parts manufactured in Southeast Asia amid the spread of COVID-19.
Imports rose 28.3 percent to 6.9 trillion yen (60.8 billion dollars), growing faster than exports in value terms, with 81.0 and 131.5 percent increases in purchases of crude oil and coal in value, respectively, during a surge in energy prices, the ministry said.
As a result, the nation's trade balance reached a 166.7 billion yen (1.5 billion dollars) surplus, logging black ink for the first time in three months, but declined 82.5 percent from the previous year's black ink of 950.3 billion yen (8.4 billion dollars).
The service balance registered a deficit of 575.4 billion yen (5.1 billion dollars), rising from 363.9 billion yen (3.2 billion dollars) in the red in the previous year, as royalty payments by Japanese firms to foreign companies expanded.
Japan's primary income balance increased 11.5 percent to 1.8 trillion yen (15.9 billion dollars), up for the seventh straight month, as domestic firms received more dividend payments from their investment in stocks of overseas natural resource-related businesses, according to a ministry official.