The deficit on trade in goods was little changed in May, at an estimated £8.5 billion. Within that, however, there was an appreciable increase in the level of oil exports in May. Excluding oil, the balance worsened by £0.7 billion to £7.7 billion. This was within the range of normal month-to-month movements. The deficit of £7.7 billion was less than in every month other than April this year and at almost exactly the average level for the months of 2012.
The main reason for the increase in oil exports was sales of crude oil to the Netherlands. Recent months have seen a relatively low level of crude oil exports (from the UK to the rest of the world as a whole) and May saw a bounce-back. An estimated 5 million tonnes were exported, the highest monthly level since August 2004.
The trade deficit with EU countries was £0.6 billion lower in May than in April, partly as a result of the higher level of exports to the Netherlands. The trade deficit with the non-EU countries rose by £0.7 billion in the same period, though it remained slightly lower than the average monthly deficit in 2012.
Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, to discern patterns it is necessary to look at data over a longer period. Many of the reference tables give comparisons of the latest three months with both the preceding three months and with the same three months of 2012. The comparison with a year earlier should be viewed with caution at the moment; figures (particularly export data) for the spring months of 2012 were unusually volatile, possibly due to the unusual pattern of public holidays in that period.
Source: Office for National Statistics
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