TOKYO (AP) – Aided by higher automobile and semiconductor exports, Japan's trade surplus in September unexpectedly rose 6.9 percent from a year earlier to $8.49 billion, according to the government.
Although economists, surveyed by Dow Jones and Nikkei News, said on average the surplus would come to $7.07 billion, shrinking 10.9 percent from the previous year, the surplus still increased.
The data by Japan's Finance Ministry measures trade in commodities, foodstuffs and manufactured goods.
Japan's economic growth slowed in the April-June quarter, due to higher oil prices which caused imports to grow faster than exports. The trade figures had the effect of trimming 0.1 percentage point off the country's growth, which was instead driven by domestic consumption and investment.
The September figures suggest the net exports may support growth in the third quarter.
The nation's trade deficit with China increased 0.9 percent ($2.13 billion) in September from a year earlier, the ministry said.
Japan's surplus with Asia shrank by 3.6 percent to $5.59 billion, the first contraction since April.
The surplus with the U.S. jumped 28.5 percent to $7.64 billion – breaking the previous record of $7.63 billion in December, 1985 _ on higher exports of cars and semiconductors, according to the ministry.
The figures for Japan's overall trade surplus in September 2006 are preliminary, while those for September 2005 are final.