The balance of trade in goods was little changed in March, at an estimated £9.1 billion. This was despite an increase in the deficit on trade in oil and other fuels (to more normal levels, following the low levels of imports in January and February). Exports of semi-manufactured goods recovered to their average monthly level in 2012. By area, the deficit on trade in goods with the other members of the EU was, at £5.6 billion, around £1 billion higher than the average monthly level in 2012, with a broadly offsetting reduction in the deficit with the rest of the world.
Figures of trade for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, to discern trends it is necessary to look at data over a rather longer period.
Taking the first quarter of 2013 as a whole, the value of export trade in goods rose by 1%, while the value of imports was virtually unchanged. As a result, the deficit shrank by £0.6 billion. However, over this period the deficit on trade in oil reduced by £2.4 billion, largely because of a lower than usual level of oil imports.
The prices of exports and imports, which had declined through 2012, each rose by around 3% in the first quarter of 2013. This is likely to have reflected the fall in sterling in this period: the effective exchange rate index for sterling fell by 4% in the quarter. Trade volumes of both exports and imports declined in the first quarter; for imports however, this reduction was wholly due to the lower level of oil imports. The volume of imports excluding oil was virtually unchanged.
Source: Office for National Statistics
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