The seasonally adjusted merchandise trade balance returned a E3.8 billion surplus in August, down from a marginally smaller E4.2 billion in July.
The headline deterioration masked a 2.6 percent monthly jump in exports that was more than offset by a 4.4 percent spurt in imports. This was the former's first increase since April. Energy (8.3 percent) dominated the advance but there were solid gains too in consumer goods (1.2 percent), intermediates (2.1 percent) and, in particular, capital goods (3.9 percent). Indeed, even excluding energy exports climbed 2.4 percent and, with the exception of capital goods (0.0 percent), all of the major sectors showed positive growth on the year.
Still, the latest data put the average surplus for July/August 12.3 percent below the second quarter mean when net exports provided just a small lift to real GDP growth. The early indications are that domestic demand, which contracted in April-June, will need to recover in the third quarter if total output is to post anything like a respectable rate of expansion.
The merchandise trade balance measures the difference between imports and exports of goods. The level of the international trade balance, as well as changes in exports and imports, indicate trends in foreign trade and can offer a guide to an economy's competitiveness.
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.