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Economists warn of poor April exports but outlook positive

Exports fell 2pc in April and imports surged by over one third while economists said the figures do not bode well for our economic growth projections. See also: Independent Blog

Preliminary figures show the trade surplus narrowed to €2.6bn in April while seasonally adjusted imports reached €4.9bn during the month, up from €3.7bn in March.

Exports, one of the great white hopes for economic recovery and one of the keys to us reaching EU/IMF growth targets, fell to €7.5bn from €7.7bn a month earlier.

The growth in imports was boosted by big ticket industries like the purchase of aircraft and international pharmaceutical firms buying raw materials like petroleum rather than households becoming more confident about the economic situation.

“The figures are disappointing,” said Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Bloxham Stockbrokers.

“We will have more details when the quarterly household survey is published on Thursday but the figures are not as good as had been expected, especially when the economy is seen as an export-led one and there’s a risk to the downside for gross domestic product growth,” he added.

On a three monthly basis, the figures look more positive.

In the three months ended March, exports increased by 9pc compared to the same period in 2010, totalling €23.4bn.

This was driven by a rise in the export of medical and pharmaceutical products, which rose 18pc year-on-year.

The economy exported more goods to two of its main export markets, with an additional €541m, or 11pc, sent to the US, and products sent to Britain rising by €259m or 9pc.

France imported an additional 23pc, or €255m, of Irish goods.

Minister for Enterprise John Bruton welcomed growth in exports to target markets like Brazil, Russia and India.

However, he warned against complacency as other aspects of the figures show.

“I, together with my colleagues across government, am determined to ensure that exports can continue to grow and lead a recovery in the domestic economy,” he said.

“Above all, we must ensure that our competitiveness continues to improve at a faster rate than our competitors, particularly at a time when oil prices and other costs outside our control are high.”