The seasonally adjusted merchandise trade balance returned a E19.8 billion surplus in August after an unrevised E22.4 billion excess in July. This was the least black ink since March. The unadjusted surplus was E11.2 billion, up from E7.4 billion in August 2014.
The headline reduction reflected mainly a 1.3 percent monthly fall in exports to E169.5 billion, their second successive decline and their lowest level since February. Imports were up 0.2 percent at E149.7 billion, only partially reversing July's fall. Compared with a year ago, exports now show an unadjusted gain of 6.0 percent and imports a rise of 3.0 percent.
The average surplus in July/August was E21.1B, a drop of only 1.4 percent from the second quarter average. This is probably indicative of, at best, a much smaller contribution from total net exports to third quarter real GDP growth than the 0.3 percentage point boost provided in April-June. Further reason for being cautious about the speed of the Eurozone's economic recovery.
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.