The seasonally adjusted merchandise trade balance was E4.2 billion in the black in January following a downwardly revised E3.9 billion at the end of 2016.
The headline improvement reflected a 0.5 percent monthly bounce in exports together with a 0.2 percent dip in imports. For the former, this was their fourth consecutive gain and lifted unadjusted annual growth from 6.1 percent to 13.3 percent, equalling the high seen in August. However, much of the monthly increase was attributable to an 18.3 percent surge in energy sales and without the benefit of this, exports would have fallen 0.1 percent. Capital goods (1.0 percent) and intermediates (0.1 percent) made ground but were eclipsed by a 1.3 percent decrease in consumer goods. Meantime, the monthly decline in imports was the first since September.
Overall net exports had a neutral impact upon real GDP growth last quarter but euro weakness and still soft domestic demand should make for a positive contribution during 2017.
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.