Kuwait's trade surplus with Japan narrowed 21.7 percent in December to JPY 84.1 billion (USD 713 million) from a year earlier, shrinking for the second month as exports fell, the Finance Ministry said Monday.
Nevertheless, Kuwait maintained black ink with Japan for the 83rd consecutive month, the ministry said in a preliminary report.
Kuwaiti overall exports to Japan shrink 17.7 percent year-on-year to JPY 107.0 billion (USD 908 million) for the second consecutive monthly decline, while imports from Japan edged up 1.2 percent to JPY 23.0 billion (USD 195 million), up for the sixth month.
Middle East's trade surplus with Japan also declined 27.6 percent to JPY 927.1 billion (USD 7.9 billion) last month, as Japan-bound exports from the region slid 18.9 percent from a year earlier.
Crude oil, refined products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other natural resources, which accounted for 97.3 percent of the region's total exports to Japan, plunged 19.3 percent, but the region's overall imports from Japan grew 27.1 percent, thanks to robust shipments of automobile, steel, machinery and electric equipment.
The world's third-biggest economy registered a global deficit of JPY 660.7 billion (USD 5.6 billion) in December, down 49.5 percent on the year, the ministry said. But it marked the 30th straight month of shortfall, the longest losing streak since comparable data became available in January 1979.
Overall exports expanded 12.9 percent to JPY 6.896 trillion (USD 58.5 billion), buoyed by strong demand for automobiles, semiconductors and steel on the back of the weak yen. Imports also grew 1.9 percent to JPY 7.557 trillion (USD 64.1 billion). The pace of import growth slowed as oil prices declined 29.4 percent on the year.
For the whole of 2014, Japan's trade deficit ballooned to a record JPY 12.781 trillion (USD 108.5 billion), the fourth straight year of red ink, partly due to higher costs of imported LNG due to falling yen. The shortfall is the largest ever since 1979. Exports rose 4.8 percent, while imports increased 5.7 percent.
Japan's currency weakened against the US dollar by 8.7 percent from the year before, according to the ministry.
The yen's depreciation supports exports by making Japanese products more competitive overseas and increase the value of repatriated overseas earning, but it also inflates import prices. The trade data are measured on a customs-cleared basis before adjustment for seasonal factors.