TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's surplus in the current account shrank for the first time in five years in fiscal 2018 from a year earlier to 19.41 trillion yen ($177.31 billion), as China's economic slowdown curbed growth in exports and higher oil prices boosted imports, government data showed Tuesday.
The surplus in the current account, one of the widest gauges of international trade, logged a year-on-year decrease of 12.4 percent in the fiscal year ended in March, according to a preliminary report released by the Finance Ministry.
Japan's goods trade surplus tumbled 84.4 percent to 706.8 billion yen on slower growth in exports, becoming the largest driver contributing to the drop in its current account.
The escalating trade spat between the United States and China is expected to keep pressure on Japan's exports, with the latest data showing the surplus in the current account fell more than 10 percent in March from a year earlier.
The current account will be able to stay in surplus for the time being, supported mainly by primary income as goods trade will continue struggling amid the U.S.-China trade war, Masato Koike, an economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said.
Primary income reflects how much Japan earns from foreign investments.
Exports grew 2.6 percent to 80.32 trillion yen last fiscal year, but the increase was down from 10.6 percent the previous year on falling exports to China.
Imports expanded 8.0 percent to 79.61 trillion yen, driven by a rise in prices of commodities including crude oil and liquefied natural gas.
Among other key components, the primary income account registered a surplus of 21.07 trillion yen, up 3.9 percent from the previous year.
The travel surplus jumped 23.3 percent from a year earlier to 2.49 trillion yen as the number of foreign travelers to Japan hit a record 31.63 million in fiscal 2018.
But overall services trade marked a deficit of 637.8 billion yen due to a fall in income from marine transport services.
In March alone, Japan posted a current account surplus of 2.85 trillion yen, marking the 57th consecutive month of black ink but down 10.6 percent from a year earlier.
Primary income registered a surplus of 2.06 trillion yen, goods trade logged a surplus of 700.1 billion yen and services trade ran a surplus of 345.1 billion yen.