The balance of trade in goods improved by almost £1 billion last month, to a deficit of £8.2 billion. Around half of that change was accounted for by trade in erratic items (ships, aircraft, precious stones and silver). The levels of exports of these products - which, by definition can fluctuate from period to period - were around £0.5 billion greater in April than in March. However, the value of goods imported fell by £1.3 billion reflecting lower levels of arrivals of both semi-manufactured and manufactured goods.
Sterling appreciated slightly in April and, probably as a result, both export and import prices fell slightly. Excluding erratic items and oil, both export and import volumes fell. The fall in the volume of trade with the other EU countries was sharper than the fall in trade with the rest of the world.
The deficit on trade in goods was around £0.5 billion higher in the three months February to April than in the previous three months. However, trade both in oil and in erratic items narrowed the deficit over this period, excluding those, the deficit widened by £1.6 billion.
There has been a switch in the trade with EU countries and the rest of the world since the autumn of 2011. In that period, the deficit with the non-EU countries averaged around £15 billion over a three-month period; the deficit with the rest of the EU was around £11 billion. The positions are now reversed. The prices of exports and imports to each area have hardly changed over this period but the volume of exports to the EU has gone down since 2011 (by around 5% between the second half of 2011 and the latest three months) while they have risen to the rest of the world (an increase of 7% in export volumes between the second half of 2011 and the latest three months). Conversely, imports from the EU have risen slightly over this period while they have been flatter from the rest of the world.
Source: Office for National Statistics
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