Japan posted the smallest ever current account surplus last year due to increasing energy imports and huge trade deficit on the weak yen, the Finance Ministry said Monday.
The current account surplus for 2013 was JPY 3.31 trillion (USD 32.3 billion), down 31.5 percent from the previous year, according to a preliminary report released by the ministry. It was the smallest surplus on record since comparable data became available in 1985, and shrank for the third straight year.
The current account balance is the broadest measure of Japan's trade with other countries, including goods, services, tourism, and investment.
The trade deficit more than doubled from the previous year to JPY 10.64 trillion (USD 103.9 billion) in 2013. Exports rose 9.0 percent from the previous year on the back of the yen's sharp depreciation.
Imports, meanwhile, surged 15.4 percent on heavy dependence on purchases of crude oil and liquefied natural gas to make up for shutdowns of nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the March 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.
The yen's depreciation supports exports by making Japanese products more competitive overseas and increases the value of repatriated overseas earning, but it also pushes up import bills.
"The recovery in exports is expected on the back of the weak yen. The government will pay close attention to developments of the current account balance," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference after the release.
In December alone, Japan posted a current account deficit of JPY 638.6 billion (USD 6.2 billion), the largest deficit for the reporting month.