Trade Data for March and First Quarter of 2014
Bottom line: Israel’s trade balance expanded very sharply in March, to a level of $1.8bn, after only $135m in February. In fact, both figures are distorted due to huge volatility in diamond exports. Looking at the first quarter of 2014 as a whole, the overall deficit increased by some $200m compared with the first quarter of 2013, but after excluding ships, aircraft, diamonds and fuels, the ‘core’ deficit increased sharply, by over $1.2bn, from a surplus of $618m in Q1 2013, to a deficit of $613m in Q1 2014.
- On the import side, there were few notable developments in March. One was a further decline in imports of investment goods, a trend that has been underway for several months.
- Consumer goods imports, however, remained steady, as did imports of raw materials.
- Fuel imports fell sharply in March, after dropping in February, too — but this followed a big jump in January. It is difficult to know to what extent this is weather-related. For the first quarter, fuel imports were almost $500m less than in Q1 2013, which was before the Tamar natural gas field came onstream.
- Exports of worked diamonds amounted to only $200m in March, compared to $1.3 billion in February (!).
- However, for Q1 2014 as a whole, diamond exports rose by 40% over Q1 2013.
- Industrial exports excluding diamonds posted a slight rise (approx.. 1.5%) in the first quarter of 2014 over the year-earlier period.
- High-tech exports rose almost 7% over Q1 2013, with the pharma sector now leading the uptrend, whereas a year ago it was a cause of weakness.
- Nevertheless, over the first quarter, the upward momentum in high-tech exports largely dissipated and signs of weakness began to be noticeable (see graph).
- Exports from medium-high and medium-low technology sectors were both lower on a quarter-over-quarter basis, but low-technology industries posted strong gains, led by the ‘old economy’ sectors of textiles and food.