TOKYO -- Japan's trade surplus fell more than 40 per cent in October from a year earlier, despite strong growth in exports to China, the U.S. and the EU, as costs for imports of oil, gas and coal surged.

Customs figures released Monday showed imports rose almost 19 per cent from the same month a year earlier in October to 6.41 trillion yen ($57 billion) while exports were up 14 per cent at 6.7 trillion yen ($59 billion). The resulting surplus of 285.4 billion yen ($2.54 billion) compared with a 481.2 billion yen surplus a year earlier.

While imports have risen thanks to higher costs for crude oil and other commodities, exports are helping to drive a moderate recovery in the world's third-largest economy thanks to revived demand in major markets such as China and the U.S. for vehicles, electronics and machinery.

Japan's surplus with the U.S. jumped 11 per cent to 644.7 billion yen ($5.75 billion) on exports of 1.28 trillion yen ($11 billion). Imports from the U.S. climbed 3.1 per cent to 637 billion yen ($5.7 billion).

China displaced the U.S. as Japan's biggest export market in October, as shipments to Asia's biggest economy jumped 26 per cent to 1.35 trillion yen ($12 billion). Its imports from China rose 14 per cent to 1.62 trillion yen ($14 billion).

Imports of crude oil, gas, coal and other fuels surged 37.5 per cent from a year earlier to 1.24 trillion yen ($11 billion).