Kuwait's trade surplus with Japan narrowed 20.2 percent in April to JPY 96.6 billion (USD 955 million) from a year earlier, shrinking for the first time in two months as imports soared, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.
Kuwait still maintained black ink with Japan for the 75th consecutive month, the ministry said in a preliminary report.
Kuwaiti overall exports to Japan fell 15.2 percent year-on-year to JPY 111.1 billion (USD 1.1 billion) for the first decline in two months, while imports from Japan jumped 45.4 percent to JPY 14.5 billion (USD 143 million), up for the 12th straight month.
Middle East trade surplus with Japan also shrank 12.4 percent to JPY 1.003 trillion (USD 9.9 billion) last month, with Japan-bound exports from the region falling 6.9 percent from a year earlier.
Crude oil, refined products, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and other natural resources, which accounted for 97.4 percent of the region's total exports to Japan, slid 7.8 percent. The region's overall imports from Japan expanded 25.6 percent, however, thanks to robust shipments of automobile, machinery, and steel goods.
Japan's global deficit narrowed in April for the first time in 20 months, chiefly due to the consumption tax hike, which dampened demand for imports.
The world's third-biggest economy posted a trade deficit of JPY 808.9 (USD 8.0 billion), down 7.8 percent on the year. It marked the 22nd straight month of shortfall for the longest losing streak since comparable data became available in January 1979.
Overall exports climbed 5.1 percent to JPY 6.069 trillion (USD 60.0 billion), thanks to strong shipments of vehicles, scientific, and optical instruments. Imports rose 3.4 percent to JPY 6.888 trillion (USD 68.0 billion), as the weaker yen continued to push up costs for imports of oil and gas, which comprise more than one third of all imports.
Demand for fossil fuel-based power generation had been strong following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, which was triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami. On the other hand, demand for imports of consumer goods declined after the April 1 sales tax increase to 8 percent from 5 percent.
Exports to China, Japan's biggest trading partner, grew 9.8 percent, and imports from the country expanded 7.8 percent, posting a deficit with China for the 26th straight month.
Japan's currency weakened against the US dollar by 6.7 percent the year before, according to the ministry.
The yen's depreciation supports exports by making Japanese products more competitive overseas and increases the value of repatriated overseas earning, but it also inflates import prices.
Trade data are measured on a customs-cleared basis before adjustment for seasonal factors