Japan saw a merchandise trade surplus of 11 billion yen in March, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday - beating analyst expectations for a 10 billion yen surplus following the revised 82.1 billion yen surplus in February.

Imports were down 36.7 percent on year versus expectations for a 37.3 percent fall after the 43 percent contraction in the previous month. Exports dropped 45.6 percent on year versus the 46.6 percent decline that had been forecast following the 49.4 percent decline a month earlier.

Energy sources were a major factor for the decline in imports, the ministry said. Japan imported 18.2 million tons of crude oil in March, down 18.4 percent on year. The crude import bill for March was 88 billion yen, the data showed, down an annual 65 percent. Also, coal imports were 12.4 million tons, -16.6 percent on year, while naphtha and gasoline imports fell 22 percent on year and LNG imports came in at 5.8 million tons, down an annual 8.4 percent.

Seasonally adjusted, Japan posted a deficit of 97.1 billion yen versus expectations for a 250.7 billion yen shortfall following the revised 71.7 billion yen deficit in February.

With the United States, Japan posted a trade surplus of 154.4 billion yen, down an annual 76.7 percent. With Europe, Japan saw a trade surplus of 46.7 billion yen, down 90.2 percent on year for the sharpest decline ever, according to the government.

With China, Japan posted a trade deficit of 174.5 billion yen, up 180.4 percent on year. With all of Asia, Japan saw a trade surplus of 327.7 billion yen, down an annual 65.6 percent.

Japan logged a 725.3 billion yen deficit for the fiscal year 2008, marking the first FY shortfall since 1980.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com