Plunging euro boosts Irish exports to lift May balance of trade
The trade surplus for May was the second highest so far this year, with economists hailing the continued broad-based recovery in Ireland's goods exports.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) said Irish goods exports fell and imports rose in May compared with April, shrinking the trade surplus by 14pc compared to April's figure.
But monthly data can be volatile and while exports fell on the month, the value of those exports was 8pc higher compared to the same month last year.
Economists said the data shows that Ireland's goods exports are continuing their broad-based recovery, with a number of indicators now suggesting the economic recovery accelerated in the first half of the year.
Conall Mac Coille of Davy Stockbrokers said Irish exports have expanded at a rapid pace this year, buoyed by the weakness of the euro.
"In the year to May, goods exports equalled €44bn, up 18pc from the €37.2bn recorded in 2014," he said. "True, the rebound has reflected the exceptional 31pc rise in pharmaceutical exports but even excluding pharmaceuticals goods, exports have increased by 12.6pc.
May's data showed that the value of exports in the month was €8.8bn, representing a rise of €673m, or 8pc, on May 2014.
The main driver was the rise in the exports of medical and pharmaceutical products of €542m, or 30pc, to €2.36bn. The unadjusted value of imports for May was €4.7bn, representing a decrease of €110m, or 2pc, when compared to May of last year.
Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers said the trade surplus remained "healthy", although not as high as anticipated.
"The April surplus was the highest so far in 2015, and the largest in almost three years. Although lower than in April, the May trade surplus was the second-highest of 2015 to date and the third-highest positive balance in the past two-and-a-half years," he said.
The European Union accounted for 54pc of total exports in May, of which 14pc went to Belgium. The US was the main non-EU destination, accounting for 26pc of total exports.
The top five countries in the EU for Irish exports were Belgium, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and France.
The EU accounted for 61pc of the value of imports in May, with 29pc of total imports coming from Britain. The USA at 14pc and China at 7pc were the main non-EU sources of imports.
The top five countries for Irish imports in the EU were Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
Mr McQuaid said Ireland's trade performance in the past 18 months or so has benefited from competitiveness gains and by the weakening of the euro.
GDP data from the first three months of the year is expected to be released by the CSO next week.