Trade data for April and for January-April 2016

May 15, 2016

Bottom line:  April’s trade data were, in general, as bad or worse than those of the preceding months. The only good points emerging from the data were that the trends are improving somewhat: the rate of increase in imports, excluding fuel, diamonds, ships and aircraft, fell to zero, while the rate of decline of exports was slightly lower in April than in February and March.

However, the severity of the underlying problems in key export sectors becomes more apparent with every passing month.

 

Specifics:

  • On a seasonally-adjusted basis and after excluding diamonds, ships and aircraft — but not fuels — the deficit for April hit a new recent high, of $1.24bn, twice the level of April 2015.
  • The cumulative deficit for January-April 2016, at almost $3.5bn, was also double (and more) that of the parallel period last year.
  • The problems of export sectors are concentrated in the manufacturing sector, which comprises over 80% of total exports. Diamond exports continue to rise strongly and the small agricultural sector is posting an rise, after two tough years.
  • Within the overall manufacturing sector, the weakness is concentrated in the high-tech and medium-high tech industries, while the much smaller medium-low and low tech sectors have eked out small rises year-to-date.
  • Specifically, the three biggest export industries — electronics, pharmaceuticals and chemicals are all suffering from prolonged weakness and are down 10-15% year-to-date.
  • On the imports side, the signs of decelerating growth are everywhere to be seen among the trend data: the rate of increase of consumer goods imports has fallen almost to zero, while that of investment goods has dropped sharply — the surge in vehicle imports is clearly over; as for imports of raw materials, these have been declining since last December, at a steadily more rapid rate.

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