Spanish merchandise exports continue to deliver good news driven by a sudden recovery in world trade. Between January and March grew by 14.1% to reach 69,741 million euros, the best quarter in history according to data from the State Department of Commerce published on Tuesday.
Of course, the bad news is that despite that record imports grew even more, with an advance of 16.5% to 76,940 million euros. That left the commercial deficit of goods at 7,199 million euros, 45.6% more than a year earlier. To a large extent, this worsening of the balance is due to the rebound in oil prices, as the purchases of oil and derivatives have risen 88.6% over the same quarter of the previous year. In fact, once the crude oil was removed, the non-energy balance improved until March, showing a deficit of 411 million compared to 987 million in the same period of the previous year.
The Ministry of Economy indicates that sales abroad registered the best evolution of the entire EU except for the United Kingdom, whose exports in the trimester were propelled by 21% as a result of the collapse of the pound. The good news is that a generalized improvement in world trade is finally perceived. With the exception of 2009, exports always grew twice as much as the economy. But as of 2012, much lower increases began to be registered, in line with what the GDP added or worse. If before the increases in world trade were of the order of 5%, now rates of 2% were occurring. 2016 was a particularly worrying year. An economy like the Spanish that had made great sacrifices to gain competitiveness barely achieved a growth of 1.7%. And that was considered a good record in the midst of a world braking climate. The hard-won competitiveness served so that Spain could dissociate itself from the trajectory traced by the rest of the world. To the point that in many countries even setbacks were noted. The crisis of the emerging countries that produce raw materials; currency depreciation; wage competition; China’s shift towards greater domestic consumption; the Brexit and the protectionist measures seemed to presage a worse performance of the commercial exchanges.
However, this argument has been reversed this trimester. In the euro zone, sales advanced 9.5% : in France, 4.2%; in Germany, 8.5%; in Italy by 10% and in the EU by 9.7%. Outside Europe, exports from Japan totalled 8.5%, in the US 7.3% and in China 4.2%. As can be seen from these figures, the improvement is general. Although it is still data of a single quarter that benefit from the statistical rebound, the growth points somewhat better rhythms although still below the rates prior to the crisis. The economic recovery could be dissipating part of the dominant pessimism about the prospects of world trade.
In the case of Spain, the improvement of this first trimester has meant that in the accumulated figure of the last twelve months, Spanish exports have increased by 5.1% compared to the 1.7% that they grew in 2016 as a whole. Three months the improvement is obvious. And March has been particularly spectacular with a 16.9% rise. Probably the data for March is also due to the fact that in that month decisions were made that companies usually take between the end of the year and the beginning of the year in the light of the perceptible recovery, explain sources of the Ministry of Economy. “This behavior is part of a trend of the global economy, especially because of the improvement of Asia and Europe,” explains Julián Cubero, of BBVA Research. The eurozone is the main trading partner of Spain and, for the first time since the beginning of the crisis, all the economies that make it up grow.
These Spanish sales data also reveal other good news. In the middle of the debacle, the largest Spanish exports were obtained by force of lower prices. In volume, more was sold. But in money the amount was not so much because they were lowering prices. In contrast, in this quarter there was a slight rise in prices of 0.8%. Although it does not suppose something spectacular, the data is no longer deflationary and shows a slight capacity to fix prices in a more favourable conjuncture.
By geographic areas, all grow in the quarter. Spanish exports to the EU show an increase of 13.1%; to the euro zone 13.6%; Asia 25.4%; North America 18.5%; Latin America 12.8%; Africa 11% and the Middle East 6.2%. By sectors, capital goods grew by 10.5%; the automobile by 8.2% and food, beverages and tobacco by 14.1%. In the chapter on imports, capital goods gain 15.2% compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The automobile by 6.6% and consumer manufactures by 4.1%.
During the press conference to analyze the statistics, the Secretary of State for Trade, Marisa Poncela, has ruled out that the conflict of stowage has affected exports. However, he stressed that we will have to wait “to see how this issue progresses”. “It’s everyone’s responsibility. Let’s not put obstacles to trade so that we can all benefit from this economic growth, “he said
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