The seasonally adjusted trade balance was in a E4.5 billion surplus in February, up from an unrevised E3.9 billion excess in January. This was the most black ink since December 2014.
The headline improvement reflected gains in both sides of the balance sheet with exports rising 2.5 percent after a 2.2 percent drop in January and imports advancing a more modest 0.6 percent following a 0.5 percent decline. Annual export growth rebounded from minus 3.6 percent to 3.3 percent while imports were 2.4 percent higher on the year after a 3.2 percent drop last time.
The pick-up in sales overseas would have been sharper but for a near-12 percent slump in energy and without this, exports would have increased 2.8 percent on the month. Consumer goods (3.4 percent) and capital goods (3.2 percent) were particularly strong but intermediates (1.7 percent) also saw decent growth. Even so, over the three months to February ex-energy exports were still 0.2 percent below their level in September-November 2015.
The average surplus in January/February was E4.2 billion, a 3.1 percent increase versus the fourth quarter mean when total net exports added 0.1 percentage points to quarterly real GDP growth. Today's data suggest that the impact from the external balance on economic growth last quarter is likely to have been quite small too.
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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