The deficit on trade in goods fell sharply in January, to £8.2 billion. This was due to an unusually low figure for the balance of trade in oil, with exports up by around £0.3 billion on the previous month and imports down very sharply by more than £1 billion. In January, both export and import prices rose by 1.4%.This may reflect the depreciation of sterling against major currencies from the beginning of this year
Month on month trade figures are volatile. It is not easy to discern trends in figures for a single month. For that purpose it is necessary to look at data over rather longer periods. In the latest three months, trade in goods was in deficit by £26.0 billion, £2.1 billion less than in the preceding three months, but £1.1 billion higher than a year earlier.
Exports to the EU by value fell by 4.9% between the latest three months and the same three months a year earlier, while to the rest of the world they were 0.8% lower. This was, however a period in which trade prices have generally fallen. In terms of volume, exports to the rest of the EU were 2.9% lower, while exports to the rest of the world increased by 2.2% over this period. This gap is a continuation of a rather longer-term trend. Since the 2009 base year for these figures, the volume of exports to the rest of the EU has risen by around 5%, while to the rest of the world the increase has been over 30%.
This Bulletin also reports figures of trade in services. The balance of trade is estimated to have changed little in January (at a surplus of rather under £6 billion), though it is at a lower level than in mid-2011. However, the information on trade in services is mainly obtained from quarterly surveys. That means that the figures for any month must contain an element of estimation. The data for the latest month, however, are particularly uncertain since not all the quarterly information for that period is yet in, and the some of the figures have to be based on projections at this stage.
Source: Office for National Statistics
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