MACAO, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- The current account of Macao Special Administrative region (SAR) continued to register a large surplus of 158.0 billion patacas (about 19.6 billion U.S. dollars) on account of strong growth in exports of travel services, the SAR's monetary watchdog said here Thursday. The Monetary Authority of Macao releases the preliminary balance of payments (BOP) statistics of Macao SAR for the reference year 2018. The BOP statistics indicated that as the large invisible trade surplus offset the deficit in merchandise trade as well as the net outflows of primary and secondary income, the current account surplus expanded by 23.7 billion patacas (about 2.9 billion dollars) from 134.3 billion patacas (about 16.6 billion dollars) in 2017. The BOP, which comprises the current account, the capital account and the financial account, is a statistical statement that summarises external transactions of an economy with the rest of the world. The financial non-reserve assets, the dominant component of the financial account, showed a significant net increase of 141.8 billion patacas (about 17.6 billion dollars) mainly driven by a substantial growth in foreign financial assets of residents and the government sector. Exports of goods increased by 11.7 percent year-on-year while imports of goods rose by 5.6 percent. With imports having a higher base than exports, the merchandise trade deficit widened from 84.4 billion patacas (about 10.5 billion dollars) in 2017 to 88.2 billion patacas (about 10.9 billion dollars) in 2018. Meanwhile, service exports rose by 12.8 percent, mainly attributable to increasing exports of travel services, while service imports also grew by 10.9 percent. The services account surplus rose from 275.0 billion patacas (about 34.1 billion dollars) in 2017 to 310.8 billion patacas (about 38.5 billion dollars) in 2018.