Japan's current account surplus plunged 92.8 percent in May from a year earlier to 128.4 billion yen ($944.5 million) on ballooning imports driven by soaring energy prices amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a weakening yen, the Finance Ministry said Friday.
The current account balance, one of the widest gauges of international trade, remained in the black for the fourth consecutive month but the amount of surplus was the smallest on record for May, according to preliminary data released by the ministry.
Among key components, the goods trade deficit widened by 1.9 trillion yen from a year earlier to nearly 2.0 trillion yen, with the value of imports expanding 51.3 percent to 9.4 trillion yen, up for the 16th consecutive month.
The value of imports was the highest since comparable data became available in 1996, pushed up by increased imports of crude oil, liquefied natural gas and coal amid soaring energy prices. The price of crude oil nearly doubled from a year earlier in yen terms, according to the ministry.
In addition to higher energy costs, the yen's sharp depreciation against the U.S. dollar also caused import prices to rise. In the reporting month, the dollar surged by 20 yen from a year earlier to around 129 yen.
By region, imports from Asia and the Middle East notably expanded, the ministry said.
Exports expanded 19.9 percent to 7.4 trillion yen, up for the 15th straight month, led by brisk shipments of iron and steel, mineral fuels and electronic components including semiconductors, with shipments to Asia especially growing.
The services trade deficit, meanwhile, shrank by 111.7 billion yen to 158.5 billion yen, largely due to a decrease in advertisement payments for U.S. tech giants known as GAFA -- Google LLC, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
The travel balance, which reflects money spent by foreign visitors in Japan on services and goods against the amount Japanese spent abroad, posted an 18.7 billion yen surplus, larger than the 17.4 billion yen logged a year earlier.
Amid the easing of restrictions associated with the coronavirus infections, Japan accepted 147,000 foreign visitors in May, a sharp rise from 10,000 a year ago, while 134,000 Japanese nationals left the country in the month, according to government data.
Primary income, which reflects returns on overseas investments, posted a surplus of 2.4 trillion yen, up 164.7 billion yen on year, due to an expansion in portfolio investment revenue.