Exports surge gives €4bn surplus for May
IRELAND'S monthly trade surplus topped €4bn for the first time in May as exports surged and imports slumped.
Analysts said the 8.3pc rise in exports over April was an encouraging sign of a strengthening global economy, on a day when German business confidence unexpectedly jumped and the UK grew strongly in the second three months of the year.
But the 14pc fall in imports, when seasonal factors are allowed for, showed weak domestic demand. The fall was led by a 53pc drop in imports of computer equipment and came despite a 46pc jump in imports of road vehicles. On a three-month basis, exports were up 7pc on the previous three, while imports grew 1.25pc.
"The latest figures were very positive," said Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Bloxham Stockbrokers. "Exports to Australia were up 34pc and to Saudi Arabia by 58pc. These latter figures are encouraging as it shows that Irish trade is moving away from being wholly dependent on the US, UK and eurozone for support.
"We are still looking for the euro to weaken to 80p sterling by year-end and to the $1.10 to $1.20 range against the dollar, which would be positive for exports. It is clear at this stage that the export sector, especially services, will be the key player in the Irish recovery story over the next few years," he said.
Sterling weakness was blamed for the 11pc fall in exports to Britain compared with May last year. Exports of pharmaceutical products were up 9pc but there was a 42pc drop in computer equipment exports and a 20pc fall in chemical exports.
"The 2010 outlook depends heavily upon the strength of the recovery in external demand as well as the market share that Irish exporters are able to capture," Mr McQuaid said.