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Kuwait trade surplus with Japan narrows 4.4% in Dec Overall exports down 0.3% for first time in 3 months

TOKYO, Jan 27, (KUNA): Kuwait’s trade surplus with Japan narrowed 4.4 percent in December to JPY 107.3 billion ($1.0 billion) from a year earlier, shrinking for the first time in three months, Japan’s Finance Ministry said Monday. But Kuwait maintained black ink with Japan for the 71st consecutive month, the ministry said in a preliminary report. Kuwaiti overall exports to Japan edged down 0.3 percent to JPY 130.0 billion ($1.3 billion) for the first decline in three months, and imports from Japan gained 25.3 percent year-on-year to JPY 22.7 billion ($222 million), up for the eighth straight month. Middle East’s trade surplus with Japan jumped 21.2 percent to JPY 1.280 trillion ($12.5 billion) last month, with Japan-bound exports from the region rising 21.5 percent from a year earlier.

Crude oil, refined products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other natural resources, which accounted for 97.8 percent of the region’s total exports to Japan, rose 20.8 percent on the year. The region’s overall imports from Japan went up 22.8 percent, thanks to robust shipments of automobile, machinery, and steel. The world’s third-biggest economy hit a global deficit of JPY 1.302 trillion ($12.7 billion) in December as soaring energy costs offset export values, marking the 18th straight month of shortfall. It was the third-biggest trade deficit for any month since comparable data became available in January 1979. Japanese utilities have boosted imports of LNG for thermal power generation, as only two of the nation’s 50 workable nuclear reactors are currently online in the wake of the radiation accident in March 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami.

For the whole of 2013, Japan’s trade deficit surged to a record JPY 11.475 trillion ($112.0 billion), the third straight year of red ink. The shortfall is the largest ever since 1979. Exports rose 9.5 percent to JPY 69. 788 trillion ($681.1 billion), while imports jumped 15.0 percent to JPY 81. 262 trillion yen ($793.0 billion). Import costs for LNG rose 17.5 during the year, while those of crude oil were up 16.3 percent. Japan’s currency weakened against the US dollar by 21.8 percent the year before, according to the ministry. The yen’s depreciation supports exports by making Japanese products more competitive overseas and increase the value of repatriated overseas earning, but it also inflates import prices. “Energy imports have been significantly increasing due to the nuclear accident. It is important for us to correct the problem as much as possible,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference. Suga also said, the government will try to lay out the framework at the earliest to import lower-priced shale gas. The trade data are measured on a customs-cleared basis before adjustment for seasonal factors.

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