The seasonally adjusted merchandise trade balance was in a sizeable E4.6 billion surplus in February, up from an unrevised E3.9 billion excess in January.
The headline gain was attributable to a tidy bounce in exports which, up 2.5 percent on the month, essentially reversed their January decline. Capital goods saw a 7.6 percent rise while consumer goods were up 0.2 percent and energy 2.7 percent. Intermediates fell 0.5 percent. Overall exports were 3.7 percent higher than in February 2014, a marked acceleration versus their minus 4.2 percent January rate.
Imports rose 0.6 percent from the start of the year or 0.8 percent excluding energy. Compared with a year ago they were 1.0 percent firmer.
Despite February's improvement the average monthly surplus for the first quarter so far stands at E3.9 billion, a fall of 7 percent versus the fourth quarter mean. Swings in energy prices will have distorted the profile but its looks unlikely that net trade provided much of a boost to real GDP growth last quarter.
Merchandise trade balance measures the difference between imports and exports of both tangible goods and services. The level of the international trade balance, as well as changes in exports and imports, indicate trends in foreign trade. The goods balance is the main market focus.
Changes in the level of imports and exports, along with the difference between the two (the trade balance) are a valuable gauge of economic trends here and abroad. While these trade figures can directly impact all financial markets, they primarily affect currency values in foreign exchange markets.
Separate reports are published for external and internal EU trade. The extra-EU trade data are compiled on the basis of customs declarations with non-EU countries. The intra-EU trade data (Intrastat) are derived from surveys and provide statistics on trade between Italy and other EU member states. The data are available monthly. World trade data are available within one month after the reference month while intra-EU trade data are available within 7 weeks after the reference month.
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