P.M. BRIEFING : Japan Surplus Falls 31% in Year

From Times Wire Services

In an encouraging sign for U.S. trade, Japan's trade surplus fell for the 10th straight month in February by 31% from a year ago, the Finance Ministry said today.

The February decline to $5 billion followed a dramatic 90% fall in January's surplus, the biggest year-over-year drop in more than 10 years.

February exports shrank by 1.9% to $21.96 billion, the fifth consecutive decline.

Imports were pushed up by higher oil prices and rose 11.9% to $16.95 billion--the lowest percentage gain in five months.

Japan's exports dropped back because of sluggish U.S. demand and growing production of Japanese goods at U.S.-based factories. Exports to the United States fell 5.9% to $7.12 billion.

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