|Balance of trade in goods||Balance of trade in services||Total trade balance|
The UK’s deficit in Trade in Goods and Services decreased to £1.1 billion in December, from £2.8 billion in November. This is the narrowest monthly trade in goods and services deficit since April 2003.
The UK’s surplus in Trade in Services decreased to an estimated £6.0 billion, from £6.1 billion in November. Exports of services fell by less than £0.1 billion (0.1 per cent) to £15.9 billion but imports of services rose by less than £0.1 billion (0.6 per cent) to reach £9.9 billion.
The UK’s deficit in Trade in Goods decreased to £7.1 billion, from the deficit of £8.9 billion in November. Exports of goods increased by £0.2 billion (0.9 per cent) from £25.3 billion in November to £25.6 billion in December, and imports of goods decreased by £1.6 billion (4.6 per cent) from November's £34.3 billion to £32.7 billion in December.
The £0.2 billion increase in exports of goods was made up of slightly increased exports to EU countries of £13.3 billion (up by less than £0.1 billion from November) and increased exports to non-EU countries of £12.2 billion (up by £0.1 billion from November).
The increase in total exports of goods was driven by higher exports of oil (up £0.6 billion), including crude oil (up £0.5 billion) to EU countries, including France, and to Non-EU countries, including South Korea. Exports of oil and crude oil were at record levels in December, as were total exports to South Korea. Exports of intermediate goods also increased (up £0.2 billion), as did exports of consumer goods other than cars (up £0.1 billion). This was offset by lower exports of capital goods, cars and chemicals (each down £0.1 billion).
The £1.6 billion decrease in total imports was made up of decreased imports from EU countries of £16.7 billion (down £0.4 billion from November) and decreased imports from non-EU countries of £16.0 billion (down £1.2 billion from November).
The decrease in total imports of goods was made up of lower imports of chemicals (down £0.6 billion), oil and precious stones (each down £0.3 billion), semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals, intermediate goods and fuels other than oil (each down £0.2 billion). These were offset by higher imports of capital goods (up £0.1 billion).
The volume of exports of goods (excluding oil and erratics) fell by 0.4 per cent, driven by a fall in export volumes of cars (down 4.1 per cent) and capital goods (down 2.9 per cent). These were offset by higher export volumes of consumer goods other than cars (up 6.9 per cent) and intermediate goods (up 6.1 per cent).
The volume of exports of goods (including oil and erratics) increased by 0.9 per cent. Export volumes of oil were up 17.3 per cent, and within this, export volumes of crude oil were up 28.1 per cent.
Exports prices of goods fell by 0.9 per cent, driven by lower export prices of semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals, precious stones & silver, consumer goods other than cars and capital goods.
The volume of imports of goods (excluding oil and erratics) fell by 3.6 per cent, driven by decreased import volumes of chemicals (down 13.9 per cent), basic materials (down 6.5 per cent) and semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals (down 5.6 per cent). These were offset by higher import volumes of cars (up 3.9 per cent), capital goods (up 3.1 per cent) and consumer goods other than cars (up 1.0 per cent).
The volume of imports of goods (including oil and erratics) fell by 3.3 per cent. Import volumes of oil were down 4.8 per cent, and within this, import volumes of crude oil were down 0.7 per cent.
Import prices of goods fell by 1.3 per cent, driven by lower prices of precious stones & silver, chemicals, semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals, cars, consumer goods other than cars and capital goods.
In December, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods decreased by £1.8 billion to £7.1 billion, compared with the deficit of £8.9 billion in November.
Total exports rose by £0.2 billion (0.9 per cent) to £25.6 billion, but total imports fell by £1.6 billion (4.6 per cent) to £32.7 billion. At the commodity level:
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||+588||-281|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+105||+30|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-25||-187|
|Fuels other than oil (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||:||-212|
|Precious stones (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||:||-323|
In the fourth quarter of 2011 the deficit on trade in goods decreased by £3.4 billion to £24.1 billion, compared with the deficit of £27.5 billion in the third quarter of 2011.
Total exports rose by £2.8 billion (3.8 per cent) to £76.9 billion, but total imports fell by £0.6 billion (0.6 per cent) to £101.0 billion. At the commodity level:
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||+769||+735|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+272||-313|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-89||-645|
|Aircraft (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||:||+572|
|Precious Stones (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||-448||-427|
|Fuels other than oil (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||:||-475|
In December, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries narrowed by £0.5 billion to £3.4 billion, compared with the deficit of £3.9 billion in November.
EU exports rose by £0.1 billion (0.7 per cent) to £13.3 billion, but EU imports fell by £0.4 billion (2.4 per cent) to £16.7 billion. At the commodity level:
|Oil (see section 'trade in oil')||+257||+56|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+55||+22|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-39||-75|
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries narrowed by £1.0 billion to £10.7 billion, compared with the deficit of £11.7 billion in the third quarter of 2011.
EU exports rose by £0.2 billion (0.6 per cent) to £40.1 billion, but EU imports fell by £0.7 billion (1.5 per cent) to £50.7 billion. At the commodity level:
|Oil (see section 'trade in oil')||+522||+220|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-13||-85|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-103||-358|
In December, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £1.3 billion to £3.7 billion, compared with the deficit of £5.0 billion in November.
Non-EU exports rose by £0.1 billion (1.0 per cent) to £12.2 billion, but non-EU imports fell by £1.2 billion (6.8 per cent) to £16.0 billion. At the commodity level:
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||+331||-337|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+50||+8|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+14||-112|
|Precious stones (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||:||-318|
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £2.4 billion to £13.4 billion, compared with the deficit of £15.8 billion in the third quarter of 2011.
Non-EU exports rose by £2.6 billion (7.6 per cent) to £36.9 billion and non-EU imports rose by £0.2 billion (0.3 per cent) to £50.3 billion. At the commodity level:
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||+247||+515|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+285||-228|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+14||-287|
|Aircraft (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||:||+592|
Within the EU countries, exports to France rose by £0.3 billion and exports to Belgium & Luxembourg rose by £0.1 billion. Exports to the Netherlands and Germany both fell by £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to South Korea rose by £0.3 billion.
Within the EU countries, imports from the Irish Republic fell by £0.3 billion and imports from Belguim & Luxembourg fell by £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Switzerland and Kuwait both fell by £0.1 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Dec 2011 Value||1 month Change||Dec 2011 Value||1 month Change|
Within the EU countries, exports to France rose by £0.9 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to the USA rose by £0.8 billion and exports to India and South Korea both rose by £0.4 billion.
Within the EU countries, imports from Denmark fell by £0.4 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Israel rose by £0.4 billion, but imports from Switzerland fell by £0.3 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Qtr 4 Value||Qtrly Change||Qtr 4 Value||Qtrly Change|
Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets & import sources 2010 (see Monthly Review of External Trade table G1).
In December, the volume of exports fell by 0.4 per cent and the volume of imports fell by 3.6 per cent, compared with November. At the commodity level:
|Food, beverages and tobacco||+0.9||-1.0|
|Semi manufactured goods; of which||-1.0||-10.4|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||0.0||-5.6|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||+1.9||0.0|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+6.9||+1.0|
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the volume of exports rose by 3.8 per cent, but the volume of imports fell by 0.1 per cent, compared with the third quarter of 2011. At the commodity level:
|Food, beverages and tobacco||+3.3||+1.0|
|Semi manufactured goods; of which||+3.8||-2.0|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+1.1||-5.1|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||+3.6||+1.4|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+5.9||-1.7|
In December, export prices fell by 0.9 per cent and import prices fell by 1.3 per cent, compared with November. This led to an increase in the terms of trade. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices fell by 1.0 per cent and import prices fell by 1.3 per cent.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, export prices fell by 0.3 per cent and import prices fell by 0.7 per cent. This led to an increase in the terms of trade. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices fell by 0.5 per cent and import prices fell by 0.8 per cent.
In December, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £0.6 billion, compared with a deficit of £1.5 billion in November. Oil exports rose by £0.6 billion to £3.7 billion, but oil imports fell by £0.3 billion to £4.3 billion.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £3.7 billion, compared with the deficit of £3.8 billion in the third quarter of 2011. Oil exports rose by £0.8 billion to £9.7 billion and oil imports rose by £0.7 billion to £13.4 billion.
In December, the UK’s estimated surplus on trade in services fell to £6.0 billion, compared with the estimated surplus of £6.1 billion in November.
Exports fell by less than £0.1 billion (0.1 per cent) to £15.9 billion, but imports rose by £0.1 billion (0.6 per cent) to £9.9 billion.
In the fourth quarter of 2011 the estimated surplus on trade in services widened by £0.4 billion to £18.1 billion, compared with the surplus of £17.7 billion in the third quarter of 2011.
Total exports rose by £0.6 billion (1.2 per cent) to £47.8 billion and total imports rose by £0.2 billion (0.6 per cent) to £29.7 billion.
UK trade record information for December 2011 can be accessed at the ONS website.
Change of publication date for UK Trade January 2012
ONS has recently announced via the Publication Hub that the UK trade January 2012 statistical bulletin, initially scheduled for release on Friday 9 March, has been moved to Tuesday 13 March. This allows further time for quality assurance following the re-mapping of Standard Industrial Trade Classification (SITC) Rev 4 data, the basis on which UK trade is published, to Combined Nomenclature (CN) 2012. This reclassification takes effect from the January 2012 month of account.
Detailed correlation tables between CN2011 and CN2012 can be found on the HMRC website.
UK Trade designated as National Statistics
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.
Code of Practice for Official Statistics
National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
Understanding the data
Short Guide to UK Trade
Ever since statistics on exports and imports of goods were first collected in 1697 UK trade has been one of the country’s key economic indicators.
All information included in the monthly UK Trade Statistical Bulletin is on a Balance of Payments (BoP) basis and is seasonally adjusted. The release contains tables showing the total value of trade in goods together with index numbers of volume and price, figures analysed by broad commodity group (values and indices) and according to geographical area (values only). In addition the Trade statistical bulletin also includes early monthly estimates of the value of trade in services.
Data appearing in the UK Trade statistical bulletin are also used as a direct input into the quarterly Balance of Payments and National Accounts.
Interpreting the data
Monthly commodity movements for Food, beverages and tobacco, Basic materials, Fuels other than oil, and Erratics (Ships, Aircraft, Precious stones, and Silver) are only detailed in this Statistical Bulletin where they are equal to or exceed £200 million (£400 million for three monthly comparisons).
Monthly country movements are only detailed in this Statistical Bulletin where they are equal to or exceed £0.1 billion (£0.3 billion for three monthly comparisons).
In months where quarterly and three monthly ending percentage changes for index data coincide there may be small differences between the data for methodological reasons. Quarterly data are the indexed form of an underlying constant price (for volume indices) or consistent quantity (for price indices) series. Three month ending data are the average of the index data in that period.
VAT Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) fraud
Import figures for trade in goods include adjustments to allow for the impact of VAT MTIC fraud.
The adjustments to trade in goods relate only to part of the carousel version of VAT MTIC fraud. This fraud leads to under recording of imports as fraudsters import goods from the EU, which they then sell on before disappearing without paying VAT on that sale. The goods are eventually exported. Such exports are declared and are therefore already reflected in the UK’s trade in goods statistics.
Changes to the pattern of trading associated with MTIC fraud can make it difficult to analyse trade by commodity group and by country as changes in the impact of activity associated with this fraud affect both imports and exports. However, the MTIC trade adjustments are added to the EU import estimates derived from Intrastat returns as it is this part of the trading chain that is not generally recorded. In particular, adjustments affect trade in capital goods and intermediate goods - these categories include mobile phones and computer components, which are still the most widely affected goods.
International convention determines that the treatment of the impact is to adjust imports upwards by the relevant amounts of missing declarations (non-response). However, users may wish to interpret short term movements in imports excluding that part of the fraudulent activity that is not included in the import estimates, and for this purpose an analysis of the import figures with the VAT MTIC adjustments excluded is shown in Table 13.
Definitions and explanations
A glossary of terms is published in the UK Balance of Payments Pink Book.
Use of the data
UK Trade is a key economic indicator due to the importance of international trade to the UK economy. It is also a very timely statistic, providing an early indicator of what is happening more generally in the economy.
In addition, it is a major component of two other key economic statistics – UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the UK Balance of Payments. This means that there is a threefold potential for UK Trade statistics to inform the Government’s view of the UK economy, as well as the views of others, such as economists, City analysts, academics, the media, and international organisations.
Notes on tables – rounding:
The sum of constituent items in tables do not always agree exactly with the totals shown due to rounding.
.. Not applicable
- Nil or less than half the final digit shown.
It is common for the value of a group of financial transactions to be measured in several time periods. The values measured will include both the change in the volume sold and the effect of the change of prices over that year. Deflation is the process whereby the effect of price change is removed from a set of values.
Chain-linked indices (chained volume measures) which are indexed to form the volume series in this bulletin differ from fixed base indices in that the growth from one year to the next is estimated by weighting the components using the contribution to value of trade in the immediately preceding year (effectively re-basing every year). This series of annually re-weighted annual growths is then ‘chain-linked’ to produce a continuous series.
The implied price deflators derived by comparing current price data to chained volume measures data are not the same as the price indices published in this statistical bulletin because the former are current weighted while the latter are base (2008) weighted.
Changes in trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud mean that comparisons of volume and prices (both including and excluding trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud) should be treated with a great deal of caution.
A paper entitled Overseas Trade Statistics Methodology describing the basis on which trade in goods statistics are compiled is available on the UK Trade Info website.
A further paper Statistics on Trade in Goods (GSS Methodological Series No. 36) describing the adjustments that need to be applied to conform to IMF definitions for Balance of Payments and the division of responsibility between ONS and HMRC is available on the ONS website (384.4 Kb Pdf) .
The Overseas Trade Statistics (OTS) data used as inputs to this statistical bulletin are collected and published by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on an International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS) basis.
Basic quality information
Accuracy: Trade in goods figures for the most recent months are provisional and subject to revision in the light of (a) late trader data, revisions to trade prices and revised estimates of trading associated with VAT MTIC fraud, and (b) revisions to seasonal adjustment factors which are re-estimated every month.
Trade in services estimates have been derived from a number of monthly and quarterly sources. For components where no monthly data are available, estimates have been derived on the basis of recent trends. The results should be used with appropriate caution, as they are therefore likely to be less reliable than those for trade in goods. More details of the data sources, estimation methodology and reliability of the monthly estimates of trade in services were set out in Economic Trends (January 1996 and September 1997).
Reliability: Revisions to data provide one indication of the reliability of key indicators. The table below shows summary information on the size and direction of the revisions which have been made to the data covering a five year period. A statistical test has been applied to the average revision to find out if it is statistically significantly different from zero. An asterisk (*) shows that the test is significant. An article explaining the past revisions performance for UK Trade statistics and what is being done to improve the first published estimates was published on 9 May 2005 on the ONS website.
|Value in latest period||Revisions between first publication and estimates twelve months later|
|Average over the last 5 years (mean revision)||Average over the last 5 years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)|
|Total trade exports (IKBH)||41,497||860||1,115|
|Total trade imports (IKBI)||42,606||605||962|
|Total trade balance (IKBJ)||-1,109||263||549|
The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from May 2005 (for March 2005) to February 2011 (for December 2010). Spreadsheets giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table are available on the ONS website .
An article analysing past revisions to quarterly balance of payments current account data (340.2 Kb Pdf)
was published in the May 2007 edition of Economic & Labour Market Review.
More information about revisions material in this Statistical Bulletin can be found on the ONS website.
Coherence - EU enlargement and country coverage: Two more countries joined the EU from 1 January 2007. These countries were Bulgaria and Romania. In addition, the coverage of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) countries was extended to include Slovenia. In order to enable users to make long-run comparisons, data for the new definition EU and non-EU was produced from January 1998 onwards for value, and from January 1999 onwards for volume and price indices. At the same time data for the old definitions were no longer maintained. There are additional series for country groupings on the old definitions.
The coverage of EMU countries was extended to cover Cyprus and Malta from July 2008, Slovakia from January 2009, and Estonia from January 2011. Some EU and non-EU breakdowns of commodity data for Chained Volume Measures which are available from the Statbase® service may be less reliable than the current price data. Please consult Marilyn Thomas on 01633 455708 if you are considering using them.
Data have been combined for the United States and Puerto Rico, and for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah (the United Arab Emirates) from January 2009 onwards. Estimates are separately available for the United States and Dubai up until the end of 2008 on request.
Summary quality report
A Summary Quality Report (91.3 Kb Pdf) for this Statistical Bulletin and associated data can be found on the ONS website.
National Accounts revisions policy
National Accounts revision policy (67.8 Kb Pdf) can be found on the ONS website.
Table 14R shows revisions to the main aggregates since the last Trade Statistical Bulletin of 11 January 2012. The revisions to trade in goods from January 2011 reflect revised data from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and other data suppliers, revised estimates of trading associated with VAT MTIC fraud, later survey data on trade prices and a re-assessment of seasonal factors.
Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office. Also available is a list of the organisations given pre-publication access to the contents of this bulletin (26.6 Kb Pdf) .
Supplementary commodity data for this Statistical Bulletin (Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics); and quarterly data analysed by industry according to the Standard Industrial Classification (UK Trade in Goods Analysed in Terms of Industries) are also available free of charge as PDF files on the ONS website.
The complete run of data in the tables of this Statistical Bulletin are also available to view and download in other electronic formats free of charge using the ONS Time Series Data website service. Users can download the complete Statistical Bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own selections of individual series. The Time Series Data service can be accessed on the ONS website.
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Copyright and reproduction
© Crown copyright 2012
Under the terms of the Open Government Licence and UK Government Licensing Framework, anyone wishing to use or re-use ONS material, whether commercially or privately, may do so freely without a specific application for a licence, subject to the conditions of the OGL and the Framework.
For further information, contact the Office of Public Sector Information, Crown Copyright Licensing and Public Sector Information, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444
Next publication: 13 March 2012
Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Marilyn Thomas||+44 (0)1633 455708||Trade in Goods, Balance of Paymentsemail@example.com|