Trade data for March and for first quarter (January-March) 2016
Bottom line: The trade data for the first quarter were lousy and for March they were even worse in some respects. However, they need to be seen in the context of the massive improvement in the trade deficit in 2015.
The recovery of exports in the second half of 2015 has been completely wiped out and we are back to where we were a year ago. More fundamentally, exports have not grown much in the last four-five years.
- The overall deficit for the first quarter rose by 151% compared to January-March 2015, from $1.04bn to $2.61bn. Excluding ships, aircraft, diamonds and fuels, the trade balance moved from a surplus of $506m to a deficit of $1.73bn.
- The deterioration came from both directions — imports rose and exports fell.
- Imports rose in every major category — except fuels, where they dropped 45% compared to January-March 2015, saving over $900mn.
- However, that money — and more — was spent on consumer goods (up 12% on a quarter-on-quarter basis), investment goods (soared by 31% q-o-q, thanks to huge surge in vehicle imports) and raw materials (up 3.2% q-o-q).
- But the trend data show that the rate of increase of imports, in all categories, slowed steadily during the quarter.
- Exports were down by 9%, led by medium-high tech and high-tech sectors. Medium-low and low-tech sectors posted rises — nice, but it doesn’t help much.
In the medium-high tech category, chemicals were the main problem; in the high-tech sector, pharma was clobbered — down 18.5% q-o-q and 26.7% in March alone.