The seasonally adjusted trade balance returned a E4.7 billion surplus in September, a marked improvement on August's minimally upwardly revised E3.9 billion and its strongest reading since May.
However, the jump in the black ink masked contractions in both sides of the balance sheet. Hence, exports declined 1.6 percent versus August, their fourth fall in the last five months, while imports were down a sharper 4.5 percent, their first decrease since May. In fact, underlying exports were even weaker as a 3.2 percent bounce in energy reduced the overall monthly drop by 0.2 percentage points. Overseas sales of capital goods (minus 2.8 percent) were especially weak but intermediates (minus 1.6 percent) and consumer goods (minus 0.9 percent) were only slightly better.
The September data make for a third quarter surplus of E12.8 billion, down from E13.7 billion in the previous three months and one reason why economic growth over the period was restricted to just a 0.3 percent quarterly rate.
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.