The trade balance was in a $5.07 billion deficit in March, down from $6.54 billion in February and its least negative print since March 2011.
The improvement was essentially due to a hefty 21.6 annual drop in imports, led by an 80.5 percent slump in purchases of gold. A post-Budget jewellers' strike will have been a factor here. The oil deficit also narrowed on lower prices and volumes. Exports were down a much smaller 5.5 percent on the year although disappointingly, this was their sixteenth consecutive month of contraction.
Over the fiscal year as a whole, exports dropped 15.9 percent which, with imports 15.3 percent weaker, put the cumulative trade shortfall at $118.5 billion, a reduction of about 14 percent versus FY2014/15.
The foreign trade data relate to total sea, air and land trade and on private and government accounts. Exports are on f.o.b. basis and imports are on c.i.f. basis. Exports include re-exports of foreign merchandise previously imported to India and imports relate to foreign merchandise whether intended for home consumption, bonding or re-exportation. Direct transit trade, transshipment trade, passengers baggage, ship's stores, defense goods and transactions in treasure i.e. gold and current coins and notes, diplomatic goods and "proscribed substances" under Atomic Energy Act, 1962, are excluded from the trade data, while indirect transit trade, transactions in silver (other than current coins) and in notes and coins not yet in circulation or withdrawn from circulation are included.
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.
Imports indicate demand for foreign goods and services in India. Exports show the demand for Indian goods in countries overseas. The rupee can be particularly sensitive to changes in the trade deficit run by India, since the trade imbalance creates greater demand for foreign currencies. The bond market is also sensitive to the risk of importing inflation. Data are reported in US dollars and Indian rupees.
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