The seasonally adjusted trade balance returned a record E24.3 billion surplus in April following a marginally larger revised E19.9 billion excess in March. Unadjusted the surplus was E24.9 billion, up some E10.0 billion from a year ago.
The monthly jump in the adjusted black ink reflected a combination of stronger exports and weaker imports. The former posted a 1.1 percent monthly rise, their third consecutive increase, to stand 9.0 percent above their level a year ago. Imports on the other hand were down 1.6 percent versus March and reversed much of that period's advance. Even so, annual import growth accelerated to 3.0 percent.
The April data put the trade surplus more than 13 percent above its first quarter mean when total net exports subtracted 0.2 percentage points from the quarterly change in total output. Although volatile energy prices mask underlying volume trends the omens are good for a positive contribution from the external sector this 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. For the Eurozone, monthly data are available for trade in goods; service statistics are released as part of the overall quarterly current account report. The headline trade data are not adjusted for seasonal factors and so should be viewed in relation to the year ago month. Seasonally adjusted figures are also available for monthly comparisons.
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 the value of the local currency dollar in the foreign exchange market.
Imports indicate demand for foreign goods and services. Exports show the demand for Eurozone goods in countries overseas. The euro can be particularly sensitive to changes in the balance since a trade deficit/surplus can create greater/reduced demand for foreign currencies. The bond market is also sensitive to the risk of importing inflation. This report gives a breakdown of EMU trade with major countries as well, so it can be instructive for investors who are interested in diversifying globally. For example, a trend of accelerating exports to a particular country might signal economic strength and investment opportunities in that country.