JAPAN'S TRADE SURPLUS FELL AGAIN IN MARCH

JAPAN'S TRADE SURPLUS FELL AGAIN IN MARCH

Japan's trade surplus declined in March from the previous year's level for the 11th straight month, with exports beating imports by $9.24 billion, the Finance Ministry said Monday.

The result brought the nation's trade surplus for its fiscal year to $94.28 billion, about $7 billion less than the previous fiscal year.Japanese budgeting years start April 1 and end March 31.

The trade surplus for fiscal 1987 was 7.2 percent below the record $101.65 billion surplus set the previous year, and the first decline since Japan's foreign trade began registering a surplus in 1981, a ministry official said.

The country's current account surplus also plunged almost $10 billion during the fiscal year for its first decline in six years, the ministry said. The current account measures trade in services and in transfers of capital as well as in the buying and selling of goods.

The ministry said the current account surplus registered $84.54 billion in the fiscal year that ended March 31, down from $94.14 billion the previous year.

A breakdown of trade figures by country was not immediately available.

Exports are growing, but imports are increasing at a faster pace, the ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Although the higher value of the Japanese yen had an effect, the main cause of the fall in the trade surplus is the government's program to boost imports.

The higher yen tends to make Japanese products more expensive and therefore less competitive overseas. In order to reduce trade friction, the government has tried to reduce the economy's dependence on exports and boost domestic demand. The ministry official said the composition of Japanese imports also has shifted, with a larger share consisting of high-value manufactured goods rather than raw materials and resources.

Japan measures its trade on a customs-clearance basis, which includes freight and insurance charges on imports but not on exports. Its trade surplus would be higher if those charges were included in both categories.

In calendar 1987, Japan posted a trade surplus of $79.8 billion, down from $82.7 billion in 1986, according to Japanese government figures.