Kuwait's trade surplus with Japan sharply widened 100.9 percent (I confirm this figure is correct) in January to JPY 161.2 billion (USD 1.6 billion) from a year earlier, expanding for the first time in two months, as exports surged, the Finance Ministry said Thursday. Kuwait maintained black ink with Japan for the 72nd consecutive month, the ministry said in a preliminary report. Kuwaiti overall exports to Japan swelled 89.4 percent (I confirm this figure is correct) to JPY 177.3 billion (USD 1.8 billion) for the first increase in two months, and imports from Japan gained 20.2 percent year-on-year to JPY 16.0 billion (USD 157 million), up for the ninth consecutive month. Middle East's trade surplus with Japan jumped 32.6 percent to JPY 1.453 trillion (USD 14.3 billion) last month, with Japan-bound exports from the region rising 31.6 percent from a year earlier. Crude oil, refined products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other natural resources, which accounted for 97.5 percent of the region's total exports to Japan, soared 31.1 percent on the year. The region's overall imports from Japan grew 24.9 percent, mainly led by robust shipments of automobile, machinery, and electric equipment. The world's third-biggest economy hit a global deficit of JPY 2.790 trillion (USD 27.4 billion) in January as soaring energy costs offset export values, marking the 19th straight month of shortfall. It was the biggest trade deficit for any month since comparable data became available in January 1979. Overall exports increased 9.5 percent to JPY 5.253 trillion (USD 51.6 billion), up for the 11th month, buoyed by strong shipments of vehicles, machinery and semiconductors. But imports gained 25.0 percent to JPY 8.043 trillion (USD 78.9 billion), up for the 15th straight month, as the weaker yen continued to push up fossil fuel imports costs, which comprise more than one third of all imports. Demand for fossil fuel-based power generation have risen following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, which was triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami. Imports bill of electric parts also surged ahead of the planned sales tax hike in April. Exports to China, Japan's biggest trading partner, grew 13.1 percent, and imports from the country expanded 34.4 percent, posting a record deficit with China. Japan's currency weakened against the US dollar by 20.2 percent 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.