The seasonally adjusted merchandise trade balance was in a E4.5 billion surplus in March, up from a minimally larger revised E3.0 billion in February and the strongest outturn since September 2016.
The improvement reflected a 4.0 percent monthly spurt in exports that easily more than reversed February's 1.9 percent drop and an unchanged level of imports. In fact, the increase in the former would have been sharper still but for a 7.6 percent slump in energy. Without this category, exports would have been up 4.4 percent on the back of healthy gains in consumer goods (2.9 percent), intermediates (1.9 percent) and, in particular, capital goods (8.3 percent).
The March report makes for a first quarter trade surplus of E11.7 billion, hardly changed from the previous period's E11.6 billion. Earlier this week Istat indicated that total net exports had a negative impact on first quarter real GDP growth but it was probably relatively small.
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.