Japan’s current account surplus shrank at a record pace last year as the economic crisis hit exports, while machinery orders fell for a third straight month in December, official figures showed yesterday.
Japan, the second-biggest economy in the world, has seen a slew of gloomy news in recent weeks as the global downturn crushes demand for its cars, electronics and other goods, deepening the country’s first recession in seven years.
The current account surplus dropped 34.3 percent last year from the previous year to ¥16.28 trillion (US$176.8 billion), the first fall in three years, the finance ministry said.
It was the biggest decline since comparable records began in 1986, a ministry official said.
The trade surplus alone plunged 67.3 percent last year to ¥4.03 trillion. Exports slipped 3 percent while imports rose 8.8 percent.
“The unprecedented decline resulted from a combination of a surge in oil prices in the early part of last year and a sizable drop in exports late last year,” said Hideki Matsumura, an analyst at Japan Research Institute.
In December alone, Japan’s current account surplus plunged 92.1 percent from a year earlier to ¥125.4 billion, as exports slumped 35.1 percent owing to weak demand from recession-hit overseas economies.
Japan logged a trade deficit of ¥197.9 billion for the month, against a surplus of ¥996.8 billion a year earlier.
“The impact of the global economic crisis is extremely big for countries like Japan, which relies heavily on trade,” Matsumura said, warning that Japan’s trade balance would likely remain in deficit for the time being.
The slump in exports has taken a heavy toll on Japanese manufacturers, many of which are now losing money and reducing jobs and investment in factories and equipment.
As a result, Japan’s core machinery orders, a key gauge of corporate capital spending, fell 1.7 percent in December from the previous month, the third consecutive month-on-month fall, the government said.
The core private-sector machinery orders, which exclude particularly volatile demand from power companies and for ships, had already plunged 16.2 percent plunge in November.
The fall in December was smaller than the market’s average forecast for a 8.9 percent decline thanks to robust orders in the steel industry, which analysts said may have been placed by China.
But orders in the fourth quarter plunged 16.7 percent, and analysts said corporate capital spending was likely to remain weak.
‘FINGERPRINTING’: The ‘private relay’ feature hides a user’s IP address by rerouting the Web connection through a third party, making it impossible to infer their identity Apple Inc on Monday said a new “private relay” feature designed to obscure a user’s Web browsing behavior from Internet service providers and advertisers would not be available in China for regulatory reasons. The feature was one of a number of privacy protections Apple announced at its annual software developer conference on Monday, the latest in a years-long effort by the company to cut down on the tracking of its users by advertisers and other third parties. Apple’s decision to withhold the feature in China is the latest in a string of compromises the company has made on privacy in a country
PLEDGE: The contract chipmaker said it would issue at least NT$2.5 a share each quarter and no less than NT$10 per share for the whole of this year Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, yesterday raised its proposed cash dividend for last quarter to NT$2.75 per share from NT$2.5 a year earlier, given the company’s increased earnings. That represents a payout ratio of about 51 percent based on its earnings per share of NT$5.39 in the first three months of this year. TSMC said that its board of directors approved the cash dividend distribution yesterday. The Hsinchu-based chipmaker reassured its investors that it intends to maintain a stable and sustainable dividend policy. The company said that it would issue at least NT$2.5 a share
TIMELY RAIN: Before the arrival of the seasonal plum rains late last month, the nation had gone almost a year without significant rainfall in catchment areas Timely plum rains have significantly alleviated a historic water shortage in Taiwan, allowing water restriction measures to be lifted in some areas, while the hardest-hit areas remain on alert, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said yesterday. “Thanks to Tropical Storm Choi-Wan, the sustained plum rains and continued water resource management efforts, the water situation in Taiwan has been greatly alleviated,” Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美華) told an online news conference. More than 100mm of rain has fallen in the catchment areas of the reservoirs in Miaoli and Taichung counties over the past few days, Water Resources Agency data
Apple Inc has hired Ulrich Kranz, a former senior executive at BMW AG’s electric vehicle (EV) division, to help lead its own vehicle efforts, people familiar with the situation said. The tech giant hired Kranz in recent weeks, about a month after he stepped down as CEO of Canoo Inc, a developer of self-driving EVs. Before cofounding Canoo, Kranz was senior vice president of the group that developed the i3 and i8 cars at BMW, where he worked for 30 years. Kranz is one of Apple’s most significant automotive hires, a clear sign that the iPhone maker is determined to build a