Sunday 4 December 2016

Trade surplus shrinks but exports still rise

Patrick Edwards

Published 16/04/2015 | 02:30

Exports rose 2.9pc in February
Exports rose 2.9pc in February

The trade surplus shrank slightly in February as imports rose twice as quickly as exports.

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The surplus fell marginally to €3.82bn from a revised surplus of €3.84bn posted in the opening month of the year.

Seasonally-adjusted exports rose 2.9pc in February while imports jumped 6.1pc.

The revised overall trade surplus for 2014 was €35.7bn or €1.26bn lower than the surplus of €37bn recorded in 2013.

February's exports were driven by a 37pc increase in exports of medical and pharmaceutical products and a 20.3pc hike in what the Central Statistics Office describes as "miscellaneous manufactured articles".

However, Ireland's improving export performance was not limited to pharmaceuticals.

Goods exports excluding pharmaceutical rose 9pc in the first two months of 2015 following the 3.4pc in 2014.

Economists said yesterday that exports are likely to do well again this year as the European Central Bank continues to print money and devalue the euro.

"The weak euro will be clearly beneficial for a huge exporting country like Ireland, as will the close trading ties with both the US and UK, two of the better performers on the global economic stage in 2014," said Merrion's Alan McQuaid.

"And the indications are that these two key economies will perform well again in 2015. Competitiveness gains made against the rest of Euroland in recent years have also helped Irish exporters."

Conall MacCoille, an economist at Davy Stockbrokers, said yesterday's figure's provide more evidence that activity in the export sector is expanding at a sharp pace in early 2015. Soaring pharmaceutical exports show that the sector is recovering from the so-called patent cliff which saw exports tumble in 2013 and 2012, he added.

"The trade balance was €3.8bn on the month, above the €3bn average through 2014," Mr MacCoille said.

"Ireland's volatile trade data have been buffeted by developments in the pharmaceutical sector such as the patent cliff and, more recently, contract manufacturing."

Irish trade figures are volatile and often distorted by factors that relate to one or two companies as well as the state of the multi national sector. The latest figures are no longer influenced

by a technical issue called contract manufacturing which flatter export and GDP figures while doing almost nothing for the real economy.

Mr Mac Coille attribute much of the rise in pharma exports to investment "by multinational companies operating in Ireland in R&D, plant and machinery to help bring online biopharmaceuticals and niche drug products."

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