Japan reports 1st trade surplus in 6 years on cheaper oil

Japan posted a trade surplus in 2016, its first in six years, as lower oil prices pulled imports lower, the government reported Wednesday.

The 4.1 trillion yen ($35.8 billion) surplus compared with a 2.8 trillion yen deficit in 2015. Exports fell 7.4 percent from a year earlier to 70.04 trillion yen ($617 billion) while imports dropped 16 percent to 66 trillion yen ($581 billion), the report showed.

The trade surplus with the U.S. fell nearly 5 percent, to 6.8 trillion yen ($59 billion). It ran a 4.6 trillion yen ($41 billion) deficit with China, its largest trading partner.

Japan's trade balance slipped into deficit after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant and the country's reactors were shut down for safety checks.

To compensate, resource-poor Japan ramped up imports of oil, gas and coal for its conventional power generators. In 2016, imports from the Middle East, Japan's main source of crude oil, dropped by nearly a third from the year before.