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Economy in Brief

UK Trade Deficit Stabilizes in April; Fuel Turns a Slight Surplus
by Carol Stone June 9, 2006

We talked about UK trade just a month ago, but it seems worth revisiting right away. The trade deficit (on goods and services) in April held at March's level, £4.0 billion (a slight revision from the initial £3.8 billion). Both exports and imports eased, imports for a second month. At £33.8 billion, imports are 2.5% below their February peak. Exports edged down 0.4% in April after a 1.7% increase in March. Even so, both exports and imports remain substantially above comparable 2005 amounts.

Two-way trade in fuel remains an important contributor to total UK trade flows even though fuel is only around 8% of both total exports and imports. But exports of crude oil fell 17.6% in April after a 48.3% jump in March. Volume dropped while prices continued rising. The value per tonne increased 6% in April alone. Notably, other exports, excluding fuels, held steady with March and are still more than 13% above a year ago.

Imports of fuel had risen sharply in March and dropped even more sharply in April, maintaining a wide seesaw pattern for a fourth month. As with fuel exports, volume corrected while prices continued rising. A £0.6 billion decline in the value of fuel imports more than offset an increase in other goods and services of 1.5%.

Among non-fuel products, manufactures are sustaining a trade deficit of about £4.4 billion, although there is some tendency toward an improving turn as exports are growing while imports have moderated in both March and April. The other major segment showing a trade deficit is food, with food imports growing steadily while exports remain flat. That generates a widening deficit that reached £1.2 billion on average for the first four months this year, 26% of the total trade deficit.

Monthly Averages
UK Trade, SA, Bil.£ Apr 2006 Mar 2006 Feb 2006 Apr 2005
2005 2004 2003
Trade Balance: Goods & Services -3.98 -4.00 -5.22 -3.86 -4.05 -3.29 -2.64
  Exports 29.90 30.01 29.52 26.07 26.41 24.49 23.50
  Imports 33.88 34.01 34.75 29.93 30.46 27.78 26.14
Goods -5.75 -5.71 -7.18 -5.65 -5.61 -5.07 -4.05
Fuels +0.07 -0.43 -0.61 -0.20 -0.29 0.03 0.35
  Exports 2.30 2.40 1.93 1.68 1.79 1.49 1.38
  Imports 2.23 2.83 2.54 1.88 2.08 1.46 1.03
Services 1.77 1.71 1.96 1.79 1.56 1.79 1.41
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