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Asia Economy Last Updated: Feb 8, 2012 - 9:04 AM

Japan's current-account surplus plunged in 2011
By Finfacts Team
Feb 8, 2012 - 9:00 AM

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About 96% of the debt is financed locally at an interest rate of 1%

Japan's current-account surplus plunged in 2011, as exports fell following the March 11 devastating earthquake and both energy prices and the value of the yen rose. It was the smallest surplus since 1996, the finance ministry said and the steepest contraction since at least 1986, when comparable percentage-change figures first were published.

The surplus in the current account - - the broadest measure of the country's earnings from foreign trade and investment - - fell 43.9% from 2010 to ¥9.63trn ($125.4bn) in 2011, the first drop in two years, according to ministry data.

The closure of Japanese nuclear plants after the earthquake last March had raised energy imports while rises in the value of the yen and Europe’s debt crisis cut export demand. The finance ministry announced on Tuesday that Japan conducted ¥1.02trn worth of unannounced currency-market interventions during the first four days of November.

The FT Adviser quotes Capital Economics' Japanese economist David Rea as saying that the current account will likely turn negative later this decade following several decades of surplus.

Then Japan with a gross public debt that is expected to exceed 240% of GDP (gross domestic product) in 2012 according to the IMF, will become a net importer of capital, making it more difficult for the government to finance its debt burden.

The net debt after offsetting pension funds is about 140% of GDP.

Rea said the country’s imports exceeded exports by ¥2.5trn in 2011 - - Japan’s first deficit since 1980.

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