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The Pink Book 2013, Part 1: Current Account This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 31 July 2013 (Latest) Next edition: 31 October 2014 Download PDF

An introduction to the United Kingdom balance of payments

The balance of payments is one of the UK’s key economic statistical series. It measures the economic transactions between UK residents and the rest of the world. It also draws a series of balances between inward and outward transactions, provides a net flow of transactions between UK residents and the rest of the world and reports how that flow is funded. Economic transactions include:

  • exports and imports of goods, such as oil, agricultural products, other raw materials, machinery and transport equipment, computers, white goods and clothing,

  • exports and imports of services such as international transport, travel, financial and business services,

  • income flows, such as dividends and interest earned by foreigners on investments in the UK and by UK residents investing abroad,

  • financial flows, such as direct investment, investment in shares, debt securities, loans and deposits, and

  • transfers, which are offsetting entries to any one-sided transactions listed above, such as foreign aid and funds brought by migrants to the UK.

Closely related to the balance of payments is the international investment position series of statistics. The international investment position measures the levels of financial investment with the rest of the world, inward and outward.

The full version of the introduction to the United Kingdom balance of payments provides an overview of the concepts and coverage of the UK Balance of Payments.

A glossary of terms used in the UK balance of payments is available on the National Statistics website.

More detailed methodological notes for the UK balance of payments are also available on the website.

Chapter 1: Summary of balance of payments

Current account

The UK has recorded a current account deficit in every year since 1984. From 1984, the current account deficit increased steadily to reach a high of £24.2 billion in 1989, equivalent to 4.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). From 1990 until 1997, the current account deficit narrowed to a low of £1.0 billion in 1997, equivalent to 0.1% of GDP. Between 1998 and 2006, the current account deficit widened sharply, peaking at £38.3 billion in 2006. Since then, the annual movements in the deficit have not shown a clear pattern. In 2012, the deficit reached a record £59.2 billion, the highest recorded in cash terms, and equivalent to 3.8% of GDP, the highest since 1989.

 

Figure 1.1: Current account balance and balance as percentage of GDP

Figure 1.1: Current account balance and balance as percentage of GDP

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The last trade in goods surplus, recorded in 1982, contributed to a current account surplus. Following 1982, the goods balance went into deficit and this increased to a peak of £24.7 billion in 1989, while the current account balance deteriorated to a deficit of £24.2 billion. From 1989 until the late 1990s, both the trade in goods and current account deficits broadly fell and then subsequently rose. From 2001 to 2003, while the goods deficit continued to grow, the current account deficit narrowed due to widening surpluses on both income and trade in services. From 2004 to 2006, the deficit on trade in goods increased, matched by a rise in the current account deficit. However, from 2006 to 2009 the increases and decreases in the current account deficit reflect changes in the surplus on income. In 2010, trade in goods was again the dominant component: a £20.0 billion increase in the current account deficit was mainly due to a £15.7 billion increase in the trade in goods deficit. In 2011, a £11.1 billion increase in the surplus on trade in services and £9.1 billion increase in the surplus on income were mainly responsible for a £17.5 billion fall in the current account deficit. During 2012, the current account deficit widened significantly, due to total income switching from a £22.5 billion surplus in 2011 to a £2.3 billion deficit in 2012. In addition, the trade in goods deficit widened by £7.8 billion, the trade in services surplus narrowed by £2.8 billion, and the deficit in current transfers widened by £1.3 billion.

Trade in goods and services

The trade in goods account recorded net surpluses in the years 1980 to 1982, largely as a result of growth in exports of North Sea oil. Since then however, the trade in goods account has remained in deficit. The deficit grew significantly in the late 1980s to reach a peak of £24.7 billion in 1989, before narrowing in the 1990s to levels of around £10 billion to £14 billion. In 1998, the deficit jumped by £9.4 billion to £21.8 billion, increasing in every year except for 2009. In 2012, the deficit reached £107.9 billion.

Figure 1.2: Trade in goods and services balances

Figure 1.2: Trade in goods and services balances

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The trade in services account has shown a surplus for every year since 1966. The surplus on services generally increased until 1985, before maintaining a level at around £9 billion each year until 1992. The services surplus then increased steadily from 1993, reaching £18.1 billion in 1997. It then decreased over the next three years to reach £15.0 billion in 2000. Since 2000 it increased each year, reaching a peak of £76.8 billion in 2011. In 2012, the trade in services surplus narrowed to £74.0 billion.

Income

The income account consists of compensation of employees and investment income, the latter dominating the account. Historically, the balance on compensation of employees has generally been in deficit. It moved into surplus in the late 1990s but moved back into deficit in 2004, where it has remained.

Figure 1.3: Investment income

Credits less debits

Figure 1.3: Investment income

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The investment income balance was in surplus until 1976, but then showed a deficit in most years until 2000. From 2001 to 2011 the investment income balance showed a surplus due to the direct investment income surplus being partly offset by deficits on earnings from portfolio investment and other investment. The investment income surplus grew strongly in 2002, reaching £15.5 billion and continued to increase over the next three years to reach £24.4 billion in 2005. The surplus then fell back to £9.6 billion in 2006, before increasing again over the next two years to reach a record £33.2 billion in 2008. The surplus dropped to £18.6 billion in 2009, fell a further £4.8 billion in 2010, before increasing to £22.7 billion in 2011. In 2012 the investment income balance returned to a deficit of £2.1 billion, mainly due to a decline in the surplus on direct investment.

By sector, the investment income surplus of other sectors was £12.4 billion in 2012; £28.0 billion lower than in 2011. This fall was partly offset by a £2.2 billion reduction in the investment income deficit of monetary financial institutions (banks and building societies) in 2012.

Current transfers

The current transfers account has shown a deficit in every year since 1960. The deficit increased steadily to reach £4.8 billion in 1990. In 1991 the deficit reduced to £1.0 billion, reflecting £2.1 billion receipts from other countries towards the UK’s cost of the first Gulf conflict. The deficit has since increased, particulary since 2004, to reach a record £23.1 billion in 2012.

Separate data for general government and other sectors are available from 1986 and show that both have been consistently in deficit since 1992. The volatility in this account is due to fluctuating net contributions to EU Institutions. For a complete picture of the UK's official transactions with institutions of the EU, see table 9.9 (591.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

Figure 1.4: Current transfers

Credits less debits

Figure 1.4: Current transfers

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Investment flows, levels and income

One important set of relationships within the balance of payments is the link between the financial account (investment flows), the international investment position (levels or balance sheets), and the income deriving from the balance sheets. This is explained in more detail in the introduction to the UK balance of payments. Although a reconciliation statement between opening and closing levels and flows is not officially compiled in the UK, Table 1.3 (176.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows the rudiments of this relationship over the years for which consistent detailed data are available. Within the three main categories of investment (direct, portfolio and other), as well as reserve assets, it can be seen that the difference in the values of the balance sheet at the end of one year and the previous year is approximately equal to the value of the financial transactions in that year. The difference between the two amounts is explained by valuation, exchange rate and other effects such as company write-offs.

The value of both external assets and liabilities in the international investment position has in general been rising steadily since 1980, reflecting both the increased global investment and the increasing prices of external assets and liabilities. A major exception to this was 2009, when both assets and liabilities decreased significantly. This was due to a combination of a sharp drop in financial derivatives assets and liabilities, disinvestments over the period and the appreciation of sterling, which has the effect of reducing UK assets and liabilities valued in foreign currency. Except for 1990, the UK’s external assets exceeded external liabilities in every year until 1995. From 1995 to 2007 external liabilities exceeded external assets.  In recent years, due to the financial crisis, the net investment position has been volatile. UK external assets exceeded external liabilities in 2008 and 2011, but external liabilities exceeded external assets in the other years.

At the end of 2012 external assets stood at £10,222.9 billion, while external liabilities stood at £10,364.5 billion, this resulted in a net liability position of £141.6 billion.

Figure 1.5: International investment position and income

Credits less debits

Figure 1.5: International investment position and income

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Implied 'rates of return'

Another important relationship is that which exists between investment income and the international investment position. This can be considered most easily by looking at the implied ‘rates of return’ for both assets and liabilities. In total, the implied rate of return on liabilities was higher than on assets from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s. Since 1997, although the return on assets has been higher, both have been at relatively low levels.

The rates of return for direct investment are usually a lot higher than for other forms of investment, although the rates dropped considerably in 2008, to 7.1% for assets and 0.5% for liabilities. The rate of return on assets fell further in 2009 to 6.6%, but then increased over the next two years to reach 9.4% in 2011. The rate of return on liabilities rebounded somewhat in 2009 to 4.0%, and then increased further over the next two years to reach 5.8% in 2011. In 2012 rates of return on both assets and liabilities fell to 7.2% and 5.4% respectively. Historically, the relatively higher return on direct investment is probably a consequence, in part, of comparatively lower valuations since direct investment levels are generally reported at book value rather than at market value, as used for other categories of investment; the book values of direct investments are likely to be lower than their market values. The higher rates of return on direct investment may also reflect the higher return required to make the longer term investment worthwhile.

Portfolio investment comprises of two components, debt securities (bonds and notes) and equity securities (shares). The rates of return on debt securities have generally been higher than on equity securities. The difference in the rates of return generally narrowed from 1998 to 2003, then widened before narrowing once again from 2008. For liabilities, from 2009 the rate of return on equity was actually higher than on debt securities: 3.0% on equity and 2.5% on debt. For assets, the switch for equity securities to show a higher rate of return than debt securities occurred in 2011: 2.5% on equity securities and 2.4% on debt securities.

Rates of return on other investment were similar to returns on debt in the early 1990s, but between then and 2004 they were generally in decline. From 2004 until 2007 they began to increase again, but started to decline in 2008, dropping to 0.9% for assets and 1.3% for liabilities in 2010. Following a slight rise in 2011 both assets and liabilities recorded record low rates of return in 2012 of 0.8% and 1.2% respectively. Given that other investment constitutes such a large proportion of the value of the balance sheets, it is not surprising that the rates of return have reflected the movements in interest rates on loans and deposits such as the base rate and the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR).

Figure 1.6: Implied rates of return on assets

Figure 1.6: Implied rates of return on assets

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Figure 1.7: Implied rates of return on liabilities

Figure 1.7: Implied rates of return on liabilities

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The reference tables in relation to Chapter 1 are available to download. (176.5 Kb Excel sheet)

Chapter 2: Trade in goods

Summary

Trade in goods shows the extent of import and export activity between the UK and the rest of the world. By definition, goods covers transactions in general merchandise, goods for processing, repairs on goods, goods procured in ports by carriers and non-monetary gold. General merchandise (with some exceptions) refers to moveable goods for which real or imputed changes of ownership occur.

  • In 2012, the deficit on trade in goods increased by £7.8 billion to £107.9 billion. The level of exports increased to a record £299.5 billion in 2012; up 0.3% from £298.4 billion in 2011. However, the rise in exports was accompanied by an increase in imports to a record £407.4 billion in 2012; up 2.2% from £398.5 billion in 2011. Despite these record levels of exports and imports, annual growth has slowed considerably since 2010 and 2011 when growth was seen to accelerate as part of the global recovery from the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

  • Historically, the balance on trade in goods has shown a deficit in all but six years since 1900. The last surplus on trade in goods was recorded for 1982. In the period 1992 to 1997, the deficit settled into the range of £11 billion to £14 billion before widening in all subsequent years until 2009 when the deficit narrowed by £11.3 billion. Since 2009, the widening has resumed and reached a record £107.9 billion in 2012.

MTIC Fraud

When interpreting the trade figures, users should be aware that both exports and imports are affected by VAT missing trader intra-community (MTIC) fraud. This led to an increase in both imports and exports in 2006, and a subsequent fall in 2007 associated with the introduction of the UK’s reverse charge derogation - an anti-fraud measure relating to mobile phones and microchips, which placed the responsibility with purchasers rather than suppliers to account for the VAT associated with these goods.

In addition, following a change in the pattern of MTIC fraud, interpretation of the breakdown between EU and non-EU trade is more difficult. Originally, most carousel chains, where goods are imported to the UK, sold through a chain of companies allowing each to fraudulently reclaim the VAT, and then finally re-exported, only involved EU member states. The MTIC trade adjustments are added to the EU import estimates as it is this part of the trading chain that is not recorded. However, from 2004 onwards there were also carousel chains that included non-EU countries, for example Switzerland.

Changes to the pattern of trading associated with MTIC fraud can therefore make it difficult to analyse trade by commodity group and by country, as increases or decreases inflate or reduce both imports and exports. In particular, adjustments affect trade in capital goods and intermediate goods – these categories include mobile phones and computer components, which are now covered by the reverse charge derogation. (For more information on MTIC fraud, see the methodological notes relating to chapter 2).

Figure 2.1: Trade in goods

Figure 2.1: Trade in goods

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Volume changes

  • Export and import volumes show continued recovery since the economic downturn in 2009. Discounting the impact of MTIC fraud in 2006, export volumes are at their highest in 2012 having grown 16.8% since 2009. Import volumes have grown similarly at 15.2% over the same three year period.

  • Over a longer perspective, both export and import volumes remained fairly flat between 2001 and 2004 as world economic activity slowed. Volumes rose in 2005 and 2006 as world economic activity grew but fell dramatically in 2009 as a result of the general contraction of global trade; annually the volume of exports fell by a record 10.6% and the volume of imports fell by a record 11.7%.

Figure 2.2: Export and import volume indices

Figure 2.2: Export and import volume indices

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Price changes

  • Both export and import prices remained fairly flat between 2000 and 2007. In 2008, export and import prices rose by 13.8% and 14.3% respectively. Some extent of this growth can be attributed to the depreciation of sterling at the time. However, there was also a sharp increase in oil prices in 2008. Oil export prices rose by 40.8% and oil import prices rose by 56.3% from 2007. These increases were the highest since 2000 when the price of crude oil rose by more than 50%.

  • Although export and import price indices continued to grow in 2009, the rate of growth slowed to around 2% (exports and imports). This deceleration was partially due to the general contraction in global trade and the worldwide financial crisis. Since then, export and import prices have risen, reaching record high levels in 2011 and maintaining that level in 2012.

  • Please note: Price indices have been reinstated for the 2013 edition of the Pink Book having been omitted from the 2012 edition. The data are now available in table 2.3 (139.5 Kb Excel sheet) and the associated dataset on a 2010=100 basis.

Figure 2.3: Export and import price indices

Figure 2.3: Export and import price indices

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Trade in oil

  • Exports of oil consistently exceeded imports of oil in each year between 1980 and 2004. In 1985 trade in oil showed a record surplus of £8.0 billion as oil prices reached record levels. As a result of the Piper Alpha disaster, disruptions to production in the North Sea subsequently diminished the surplus during the period 1988 to 1991.

  • Between 1991 and 1996 the annual surplus increased steadily as UK production recovered and world crude oil prices increased. Falling oil prices in 1997 and 1998 then led to a reduction in the surplus to £2.7 billion in 1998, before sharp rises in prices saw the surplus increase to £5.9 billion in 2000 (the highest surplus since 1985). The fall in the price of crude oil reduced the oil trade surplus gradually over the next four years before recording a deficit in 2005. The balance of trade in oil has continued to be in deficit since 2005, reaching a record £15.4 billion in 2012.

  • Crude oil production peaked in 2000 and, with the exception of 2007 when the very large Buzzard field began production, has been in decline since as reserves on the UK Continental Shelf are depleted. As a result, from 2002 onwards the volume of exports of crude oil has declined and the volume of crude oil imports has generally increased. Coupled with rising prices, this resulted in further falls in the crude oil surplus, to £1.2 billion in 2004, followed by the first deficit since 1979 of £0.3 billion in 2005. The deficit in crude oil fluctuated between £1.0 billion and £3.7 billion between 2006 and 2010, and widened markedly to £10.7 billion in 2011 and again to a record £12.1 billion in 2012.

Figure 2.4: Trade in oil

Figure 2.4: Trade in oil

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Trade other than oil

  • Finished manufactures accounted for an average of around 50% of both total exports and total imports over the past 10 years. Their share of total exports peaked at 60.1% in 1998, before falling fairly steadily to around 47% in 2012. Their share of total imports peaked at 61.5% in 2002, before falling steadily to 47% in 2012. The small increases in 2006, and subsequent falls, largely reflect the effect of trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud.

  • Since 2002, growth in total exports has been mainly due to a rise in exports of manufactured goods; specifically the export of semi-manufactured goods (comprising of chemical and material manufactures) which has risen at an average rate of 5% per year. The export of finished manufactures has grown similarly since 2002 at an average rate of 3% per year.

  • Over the same period, aside from imports of fuels which primarily reflects trade in oil, growth in total imports was due to finished manufactures which has risen by an average rate of 3% per year.

  • By volume, in 2012 exports of manufactured goods increased by 1.9% from 2011; the most notable increase was trade in finished manufactures which rose 2.8% and follows two successive years of growth in 2010 and 2011.

  • In 2012, the volume of fuel exports was unchanged from 2011. Over the past 10 years, the volume of fuel exported has fallen by 22.4%. Comparably, since 2002 the monetary value of trade in fuels has increased £27.1 billion, an equivalent growth of 171%, highlighting the increase in fuel prices over the 10 year period.

  • By volume, in 2012 imports of all commodities except basic materials and coal, gas and electricity increased from 2011. Imports of manufactured goods rose 3%.

  • The volume of imports of semi-manufactures rose 3.9% in 2012 compared with 2011. Within semi-manufactures imports of chemical manufactures rose 4.9%. In 2012, the import volume of chemical manufactures was 49% higher than the level seen in 2002.

  • The volume of fuel imports continued to rise since the financial crisis in 2009, increasing by 5.8% in 2012 from 2011. A comparison with 2002 shows that the import volume of fuels in 2012 was 47% higher than 10 years earlier; although the volume level in 2002 was notably low given the economic slowdown at the time.

The reference tables in relation to Chapter 2 are available to download. (139.5 Kb Excel sheet)

Chapter 3: Trade in services

Summary

Trade in services covers the provision of services by UK residents to non-residents and vice versa. It also covers transactions in goods which are not freighted out of the country in which transactions take place, for example purchases for local use by foreign forces in the UK or by UK forces abroad and purchases by tourists. Transactions in goods which are freighted into/out of the UK are included under trade in goods.

Figure 3.1: Trade in services

Figure 3.1: Trade in services

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  • In 2012 there was a surplus of £74.0 billion, a decrease of £2.8 billion (3.7%) from £76.8 billion in 2011.

  • Between 2011 and 2012 exports of services decreased by £1.1 billion (0.6%) and imports of services increased by £1.7 billion (1.5%).

  • Of the 11 main product groupings, nine showed surpluses and two (travel and government services) showed deficits.

  • The decrease in the overall trade in services balance was mainly due to decreases in the surpluses in financial services, other business and insurance.

Travel

Travel covers business travel which includes expenditure by seasonal and border workers and personal travel which includes health related and education related travel.

Figure 3.2: Trade in travel services

Figure 3.2: Trade in travel services

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  • In 2012 travel expenditure by non-residents visiting the UK accounted for 12.0% of total exports of services.

  • In 2012 expenditure by UK residents travelling abroad accounted for 27.3% of total imports of services, the largest contribution to imports of the 11 product groups.

  • Exports increased by £1.3 billion from £21.9 billion in 2011 to £23.2 billion in 2012, mainly due to education related personal travel.

  • Imports increased by £0.8 billion from £31.8 billion in 2011 to £32.6 billion in 2012, mainly in other personal travel.

Financial services

Figure 3.3: Trade in financial services

Figure 3.3: Trade in financial services

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  • Financial services accounted for 23.8% of total exports and 9.4% of total imports of services in 2012.

  • Exports decreased by £2.5 billion from £48.4 billion in 2011 to £46.0 billion in 2012. The decrease was due to securities dealers' commissions and fees and spread earnings by UK monetary financial institutions.

  • Imports decreased by £1.0 billion from £12.2 billion in 2011 to £11.2 billion in 2012. The decrease in imports was due to other financial institutions.

  • Overall financial services accounts for 47.0% of the total trade in services balance.

Other business services

Other business services covers a broad range of services including trade related services such as merchanting, operational leasing, and consultancy services such as advertising, engineering and legal services.

Figure 3.4: Trade in other business services

Figure 3.4: Trade in other business services

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  • In 2012, other business services accounted for 29.2% of total exports and 26.0% of total imports of services. 

  • Exports increased by £0.3 billion, from £56.2 billion in 2011 to £56.5 billion in 2012.

  • Imports of other business services rose by £2.0 billion, from £29.1 billion in 2011 to £31.0 billion in 2012, mainly due to business management and consulting and other miscellaneous business services.

The reference tables in relation to Chapter 3 are available to download. (276.5 Kb Excel sheet)  

Chapter 4: Income

Summary

The investment income account covers earnings (for example, profits, dividends and interest payments and receipts) arising from foreign investment in financial assets and liabilities. Credits are the earnings of UK residents from their investments abroad and other foreign assets. Debits are the earnings of foreign residents from their investments in the UK and other UK liabilities. The flow of investment in the financial account is recorded separately from the earnings, although reinvested earnings of companies with foreign affiliates are a component of both. The total value of UK assets and liabilities held at any time is also recorded separately under the international investment position.

The balance on income had been in surplus for all years since 2000. In 2012, the balance on income switched to a deficit of £2.3 billion, compared with a surplus of £22.5 billion in 2011. The switch was mainly due to the direct investment surplus falling from £57.5 billion in 2011 to £37.5 billion in 2012. Additionally, the deficit in portfolio investment increased from £21.1 billion in 2011 to £25.1 billion in 2012.

The income surplus peaked with a record £32.5 billion in 2008. The surplus fell after the global financial crisis to £13.4 billion in 2010, recovering to £22.5 billion in 2011.

From 2003 to 2007 income credits and debits increased significantly. Income credits peaked in 2007 with record receipts of £291.0 billion reflecting stronger profits on direct investment and a higher rate of return on both portfolio and other investment, together with significant levels of investment over the period. In 2007, income debits also peaked with record payments of £272.0 billion reflecting a higher rate of return on both portfolio and other investment which more then offset lower profits from direct investment in the UK.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, income credits and debits both fell. In 2008, this was mostly due to lower earnings on direct investment while in 2009 and 2010 the fall was mainly due to lower earnings on other investment as internationally interest rates continued to fall.

Both income credits and debits recovered in 2011 but were still roughly a third lower than the 2007 peak. Income credits fell from £192.4 billion in 2011 to £162.0 billion in 2012, meanwhile income debits fell from £169.9 billion in 2011 to £164.2 billion in 2012.

Figure 4.1: Income

Figure 4.1: Income

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Earnings on direct investment abroad were the largest component of investment income credits between 2002 and 2005, accounting for over 40% of total earnings in each year over the period. This compared with 29% in 1998. The boom in UK merger and acquisition activity in the late 1990s and early 2000, and subsequent growth in earnings from abroad, has been the main driver of this change. Between 2006 and 2008, other investment income, mostly earnings from loans and deposits, has been the largest component of investment income credits, accounting for 47% of total earnings in 2008. From 2009 however, earnings on foreign direct investment were once again the largest component of investment income, mainly due to the sharp fall in earnings on other investment as interest rates fell. Earnings on portfolio investment abroad have broadly risen in line with total investment income. Between 1993 and 2008, the proportional share was consistently around 25% of total earnings from abroad. In 2009 the portfolio investment proportion of investment income increased to 33%, before falling back to 30% in 2012.

Growth in foreign earnings on investment in the UK from 2005 to 2007 was mainly due to other investment, although both direct and portfolio investment also grew strongly over this period. There was a fall in foreign earnings on investment in 2008, mainly due to a sharp drop in foreign earnings on direct investment. In 2009 the fall in foreign earnings on investment in the UK reflected a sharp reduction in foreign earnings on other investment – mainly due to low interest rates in the UK combined with a reduced stock of other investment liabilities. From 1980 to 2009, other investment income was the largest component of income on investment in the UK. However, from 2010 portfolio investment income became the largest component, following a further fall in income on other investment.

By component, direct investment has recorded a surplus in every year since 1986. Within portfolio investment, from 1993 to 2005 there was generally an income surplus on debt securities, but in most years this was outweighed by the income deficit on equity securities. In 2006 to 2008, income on debt recorded a small deficit, before returning to a slight surplus in 2009, but this has been followed by more substantial deficits in the years to 2012. Other investment has recorded a net deficit in every year since 1986. The balance on compensation of employees has shown a deficit since 2004.

By sector

Direct investment

Direct investment income credits have exceeded debits in every year since 1986. The surplus decreased to £37.5 billion in 2012, from £57.5 billion in 2011. Earnings on direct investment abroad decreased by 20% in 2012, to £81.0 billion, mainly due to the foreign earnings of UK private non-financial corporations decreasing from net earnings of £79.8 billion in 2011 to net earnings of £62.8 billion in 2012.

Figure 4.2: Direct investment income

Figure 4.2: Direct investment income

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Foreign earnings on direct investment in the UK increased slightly from £43.4 billion in 2011 to £43.5 billion in 2012. This increase resulted from higher profits reported by foreign-owned UK private non-financial corporations being partially offset by lower profits in foreign-owned UK monetary financial institutions and foreign-owned UK other financial intermediaries.

Foreign earnings on direct investment in the UK tend to be more erratic than earnings on direct investment abroad, partly because of their concentration in the financial sector. Foreign-owned banks and other financial corporations often locate in the UK to be close to the financial markets in London. Difficult trading conditions have been reflected in their profits in 1998, to a lesser extent 2002, and more recently in 2007 to 2009.

Portfolio Investment

The UK has recorded a deficit on portfolio investment in all but two years since records began in 1984. In all years since 1987 the UK has paid out more dividends on UK equity securities owned by non-residents than have been received on foreign equity securities owned by UK residents.

In contrast, the UK recorded a surplus on debt securities between 1997 and 2005. With the exception of 2009 which showed a small surplus, the UK has recorded an increasing deficit on debt securities each year from 2006. This was due to the surplus on earnings from bonds and notes decreasing, so that it no longer offset the deficit on money market instruments. In 2010, net earnings on bonds and notes switched from surplus to deficit for the first time since 1990, resulting in a deficit of £8.7 billion on debt securities which increased to a record £17.2 billion in 2012. UK monetary financial institutions doubled their net earnings on portfolio investment between 2001 and 2007, moving from a surplus of £9.7 billion in 2001 to a record surplus of £18.9 billion in 2007. This surplus has declined in subsequent years, standing at £1.3 billion in 2012.

UK monetary financial institutions traditionally tended to hold debt securities rather than equity securities, but from 2002 to 2007 they steadily increased their levels of investment in foreign equity securities, resulting in a similar rise in dividend receipts; however, they disinvested heavily in 2008, resulting in a fall in dividend receipts from £4.5 billion in 2007 to £3.5 billion in 2008. Their dividend receipts continued to decrease in the next three years, falling to £2.5 billion in 2011. In 2012, they returned to investing in equity securities which resulted in dividend receipts increasing to £3.2 billion. UK monetary financial institutions’ interest receipts on foreign debt securities rose to a record £32.5 billion in 2007, due to an increase in the investment stock combined with higher interest rates. Earnings on debt securities by UK monetary financial institutions fell in subsequent years, recording earnings of £12.9 billion in 2012, almost a third the size of those in 2007. This was due to disinvestment in debt securities and low interests rates.

Figure 4.3: Portfolio investment income

Figure 4.3: Portfolio investment income

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On the debits side, foreign earnings from UK equity have almost doubled since 2003, rising from £15.0 billion to £27.4 billion in 2012. Foreign earnings on UK debt securities increased from £17.8 billion in 2003 to £49.2 billion in 2008; they fell back to £38.0 billion in 2009, due to lower interest rates, before rising to £45.2 billion in 2011 and then £45.7 billion in 2012.

Other investment

Movements in the other investment balance are mainly due to interest rate changes, which impact on interest paid and received on loans and deposits. As the UK has an excess of other investment liabilities over assets, there is generally a deficit on other investment income, with rising interest rates leading to a rising deficit and falling interest rates to a falling deficit.

Rising global interest rates from 2005 through to 2007 led to the other investment deficit increasing from £17.1 billion to £24.2 billion over that period. In 2008 the deficit rose to £25.9 billion, before dropping to £18.2 billion in 2009 as global interest rates fell. The deficit fell further in 2010, but has risen to £15.2 billion in 2012. The fall in the deficit in 2009 reflected a reduction in the deficit for monetary financial institutions – partially offset by an increase in the deficit for other sectors, due to a greater fall in credits than in debits.

Earnings on deposits and loans abroad by UK monetary financial institutions accounted for almost 75% of total other investment credits in 2012. The vast majority of these earnings are made from foreign currency, reflecting the international nature of banking in the UK (as many of the banks trading with the rest of the world are actually branches or subsidiaries of foreign banks). 

Figure 4.4: Other investment income

Figure 4.4: Other investment income

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Sectoral breakdown of investment income

UK monetary financial institutions earned 28% of total UK investment income credits and paid out 28% of debits in 2012. This was down from 29% of credits and 35% of debits in 2011. Monetary financial institutions’ net receipts of investment income showed a surplus in every year from 2001 to 2009, but then showed a deficit of £8.3 billion in 2010, decreasing to a deficit of £0.7 billion in 2012. When considering the sector’s overall contribution to the UK’s balance of payments, it is important to also include monetary financial institutions’ financial service fees and commissions, spread earnings, and financial intermediation services indirectly measured (FISIM) earned from foreign clients – a net £26.7 billion in 2012 ( see table 3.6 (276.5 Kb Excel sheet) ).

Central government recorded a net annual deficit of around £3 billion to £5 billion from 1992 to 2005. More recently this deficit has risen, reaching a peak of £15.2 billion in 2011 but fell back to a deficit of £14.1 billion in 2012. The deficit continues to be mainly attributable to debits on gilts.

Other sectors, predominantly private non-financial corporations and non-monetary financial institutions, have recorded a net surplus in every year since 2000, largely due to strong net earnings on direct investment by UK private non-financial corporations. The other sectors surplus peaked at £40.5 billion in 2011 before falling in 2012 to £12.4 billion.

The reference tables in relation to Chapter 4 are available to download. (221.5 Kb Excel sheet)

Chapter 5: Current transfers

Summary

Transfers represent the provision (or receipt) of an economic value by one party without directly receiving (or providing) a counterpart item of economic value, in plain terms a transaction representing ‘something for nothing’ or without a quid pro quo. Transfers can be in the form of money or of goods or services provided without the expectation of payment.

  • For 2012 there is a deficit for current transfers of £23.1 billion, the highest on record. The deficit has increased each year since 2001.

  • The deficit on general government transfers is £16.4 billion in 2012 and the deficit for other sectors is £6.7 billion.

Figure 5.1: Current transfers

Figure 5.1: Current transfers

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General government transfers

General government transfers include taxes and social contributions received from non-resident workers and businesses; current transfers with international organisations (for example, EU Institutions); bilateral aid; social security payments abroad; military grants; and miscellaneous transfers.

  • Credits increased by £0.2 billion from £3.5 billion in 2011 to £3.7 billion for 2012.

  • Debits increased by £0.3 billion from £19.8 billion in 2011 to £20.1 billion in 2012.

Figure 5.2: Transfers by general government

Figure 5.2: Transfers by general government

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Other sector transfers

Non-government transfers include those EU transfers where the UK Government simply acts as the agent for the final beneficiary (for example, social fund and agricultural guidance fund receipts) or original payer (for example, VAT based contributions). Other sectors' transfers also include taxes on income and wealth paid by UK workers and outward direct investors to foreign governments; insurance premiums and claims; and other transfers (workers' remittances, and other private transfers such as gifts).

  • Credits increased by £0.7 billion from £13.2 billion in 2011 to £13.8 billion in 2012.

  • Debits increased by £1.9 billion from £18.6 billion in 2011 to £20.5 billion in 2012.

Figure 5.3: Transfers by other sectors

Figure 5.3: Transfers by other sectors

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The reference table in relation to Chapter 5 is available to download. (83 Kb Excel sheet)

Reference Tables

The reference tables in relation to Part 1 are available to view and print. (123.6 Kb Pdf)

Background notes

  1. Reliability of estimates

    All the value estimates are calculated as accurately as possible; however they cannot always be regarded as being absolutely precise to the last digit shown. Similarly, the index numbers are not necessarily absolutely precise to the last digit shown. Some figures are provisional and may be revised later; this applies particularly to many of the detailed figures for the latest years. For example, calendar year date for the International Trade in Services Survey and Foreign Direct Investment Survey are not available until after Pink Book publication. Therefore, the latest Trade in Services and Direct Investment data published in the Pink Book are provisional estimates and subject to annual benchmarking after publication.

    The latest data when available for the International Trade in Services Survey can be found at: www.ons.gov.uk/ons/search/index.html?newquery=international+trade+in+services+survey

    The latest data when available for the Foreign Direct Investment Survey can be found at: www.ons.gov.uk/ons/search/index.html?pageSize=50&newquery=foreign+direct+investment+survey

  2. Rounding

    As figures have been rounded to the nearest final digit, there may be slight discrepencies between the sums of the constituent items and the totals as shown.

  3. Revisions since ONS Pink Book 2012

    The data in the Pink Book are subject to revisions following the ONS National Accounts Revisions Policy.

    The current account balance is revised from 1997 onwards.

    Trade in goods - The revisions to trade in goods from 1997 onwards reflect revised data from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and other data suppliers and revised estimates of trading associated with VAT MTIC fraud. The revisions are consistent with the 2013 Blue Book.

    Trade in services - Revisions from 1997 onwards result from a general reassessment of data following the annual supply use balancing process, the incorporation of updated source data from the Bank of England, Chamber of Shipping and Department for Transport. revisions from 2011 additionally reflect the use of final results from ONS's International Trade in Services Survey for 2011.

    Investment income - the data are revised from 1997. Revisions from 2003 reflect changes to the methodology for estimating UK residents deposits held overseas together with the changes to the methodology for estimating bond debt liabilities. An article detailing the improvements to the financial account has been published in conjunction with this bulletin.

    Revisions from 2010 reflect the use of annual inquiry results from the ONS direct investment surveys.

    Current transfers - Revisions to current transfers are attributed to revised source data for transfers involving the UK government and the use of the latest data from various ONS surveys.

  4. Symbols

    The following symbols are used throughout:

    ..    = not available

    -     = nil or less than a million

  5. Understanding the data

    A brief introduction to the United Kingdom balance of payments provides an overview of the concepts and coverage of the UK Balance of Payments.

    A glossary of terms used in the UK balance of payments is available on the National Statistics website.

    More detailed methodological notes for the UK balance of payments are also available on the website.

    The following webpage contains articles of interest which relate to UK balance of payments statistics.

  6. References

    The internationally agreed framework for the presentation of the Balance of Payments and the National Accounts are described in the following publications:

    Balance of Payments Manual (5th edition, 1993), International Monetary Fund (ISBN 1-55775-339-3). www.imf.org/external/np/sta/bop/BOPman.pdf

    Balance of Payments Textbook (1996), International Monetary Fund (ISBN 1-55775-570-1). www.imf.org/external/np/sta/bop/BOPtex.pdf

    European System of Accounts (ESA 1995), Office of Official Publications of the European Communities (ISBN 92-827-7954-8). epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/product_details/publication?p_product_code=CA-15-96-001

    System of National Accounts (1993), (ISBN 92-1-161352-2). unstats.un.org/unsd/nationalaccount/docs/1993sna.pdf

  7. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs;
    • are well explained and readily accessible;
    • are produced according to sound methods; and
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

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