Business

Saturday 20 January 2018

Trade surplus slumps to lowest level in six years

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

IRELAND's trade surplus slumped to its lowest level in more than five years in November as the impact of the pharmaceutical patent cliff continued to hit exports.

The trade figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) this morning were weaker than expected.

The value of exports fell 5pc compared with October and were down 7pc on the year, according to the official data.

They dropped €607m between November 2012 and November 2013, with the value of exports of medical and pharmaceutical products falling a massive 25pc.

Imports in November increased 3pc, while exports fell 5pc. This pushed trade surplus down to €2.5bn - the lowest level since August 2008.

Analysts have blamed the pharmaceutical patent cliff.

“Patent expiry will remain a drag for a while longer, but it is encouraging that other, more employment-intensive, sectors of the economy are performing much better - for example food exports were up 6.7pc on the year-to-date basis compared with last year,” said Fiona Hayes, of Cantor Fitzgerald Ireland.

Exports of medical and pharmaceutical products fell 25pc in the year to November, or €572 million, while organic chemicals slumped 8pc or €158 million.

On an overall basis the EU accounted for about  €4.4bn, or more than half,  of total exports in November.

The US was the main non-EU destination accounting for about a fifth of the total amount exported.

Alan McQuiad of Merrion Stockbrokers said the figures were weaker than had been thought and claimed the merchandise trade surplus last year would be €37bn - down on the 2012 figure.

“However, on the basis of stronger global demand in 2014, we are looking for a recovery in export performance, with a volume increase this year of 3pc.”

Specialist Bank Investec said the patent cliff will act as a drag on last year's national accounts, but said the positive import figures were reflecting the improving trends in the economy.

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