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Economy in Brief

Two-Way Trade Gains in Canada, France and Hungary
by Carol Stone May 12, 2004

Besides the US, three other countries reported March trade data today. And like the US, most of these data showed gains in both exports and imports. Similarities end there, however.

Canada's trade surplus increased by C$0.3 billion from February, with a larger increase in exports than in imports. While Canada is known as a major oil exporter and a major exporter of motor vehicles and parts to the US, these weren't the most significant sources of the March improvement. The auto sector did see a C$0.2 billion export increase, but energy exports actually edged lower. All other exports were up 1.9% and exports to non-US destinations rose more than those to the US. Further, shipments to the US are down from a year ago, but those elsewhere rose more than 10% from March 2003. Canadian imports were up in March by 0.9% from February. France maintained a modest trade surplus. It has maintained a near balance in trade virtually every month for the last two years, resulting from remarkably stable patterns in both exports and imports. In March, exports were up 4.5%, but that just about reversed declines in the previous two months, netting little change so far this year. What may be developing is stronger trade with France's EU partners. The most recent months have seen a tentative breakout of exports to the EU; March, at EUR17.9 billion and December at EUR18.0 billion are the largest in three years.Hungary's overall economy seems to be strengthening, and this is reflected in its trade performance. Its industrial production has rebounded vigorously through March after sluggish behavior during 2003. The demand evident in that measure is pulling in imports, which reached a new high of 1,003 billion florints in March, up 3.9% on the month and 19.7% on the year. Sometimes such large moves in these values can be related more to currency moves than to "real" developments, and indeed the florint has hardly been steady relative to the euro; but it has held to a basically flat trend and has in fact risen since January. Hungarian exports decreased in February and March, but from an all-time high in January; they have trended consistently higher since late 2002.

Monthly Average
Trade in Goods, SA, Billions of Local Currency Mar 2004 Feb 2004 Jan 2004 Year Ago
2003 2002 2001
Canada: Balance (Bil.C$) 6.2 5.9 5.1 5.9 5.0 4.8 5.9
  Exports 34.9 34.3 31.9 35.8 33.4 34.5 35.1
  Imports 28.7 28.4 26.8 30.0 28.4 29.7 29.2
France:  Balance (Bil.Euros) 0.8 0.3 0.9 -0.1 0.2 0.6 0.1
  Exports 28.1 26.9 27.9 27.0 27.0 27.6 27.7
  Imports 27.3 26.6 27.0 27.1 26.8 27.0 27.6
Hungary:  Balance (Bil.Forints) -143.5 -70.6 -4.3 -81.0 -87.7 -69.2 -76.4
  Exports 859.3 894.7 934.1 754.9 803.5 739.5 729.0
  Imports 1002.8 965.3 938.4 835.9 891.2 808.7 805.4
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