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External merchandise trade statistics for February 2018

The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) released today (March 27) the external merchandise trade statistics for February 2018. In February 2018, the value of Hong Kong's total exports of goods increased by 1.7%, whereas the value of imports of goods decreased by 3.2% over a year earlier.

As the trade flows in January and February of each year tend to show considerable volatilities due to difference in timing of the Lunar New Year holidays, it is useful to analyse the trade figures for these two months taken together.

Taking January and February as a whole to neutralise the distortion caused by the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year holidays, the value of total exports of goods increased by 10.7% over the same period in 2017. Concurrently, the value of imports of goods increased by 10.5%. A visible trade deficit of $74.4 billion, equivalent to 11.1% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded in the first two months of 2018.

In February 2018, the value of total exports of goods increased by 1.7% over a year earlier to $245.7 billion, after a year-on-year increase of 18.1% in January 2018. Concurrently, the value of imports of goods decreased by 3.2% over a year earlier to $288.5 billion in February 2018, after a year-on-year increase of 23.8% in January 2018. A visible trade deficit of $42.7 billion, equivalent to 14.8% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded in February 2018.

Comparing the three-month period ending February 2018 with the preceding three months on a seasonally adjusted basis, the value of total exports of goods increased by 3.7%. Meanwhile, the value of imports of goods increased by 4.2%.

Analysis by country/territory

Comparing February 2018 with February 2017, total exports to Asia as a whole went down by 5.9%. In this region, decreases were registered in the values of total exports to some major destinations, in particular Vietnam (-26.8%) and the mainland of China (the Mainland) (-10.5%). On the other hand, increases were recorded in the values of total exports to Malaysia (+21.9%), the Philippines (+16.4%), Japan (+16.1%) and Singapore (+16.0%).

Apart from destinations in Asia, increases were registered in the values of total exports to some major destinations in other regions, in particular Germany (+50.5%), the United Kingdom (+33.5%) and the USA (+31.8%).

Over the same period of comparison, decreases were registered in the values of imports from most major suppliers, in particular India (-21.3%), the USA (-14.5%), Japan (-13.8%), Taiwan (-11.8%), Thailand (-7.6%) and Singapore (-7.1%). The value of imports from the Mainland also went down by 0.6%. Concurrently, an increase was registered in the value of imports from Malaysia (+71.8%).

For the first two months of 2018 as whole, year-on-year increases were registered in the values of total exports to most major destinations, in particular India (+22.4%), Taiwan (+22.3%), Germany (+16.0%), the USA (+12.0%), Japan (+11.2%), Singapore (+10.9%) and the Mainland (+9.9%). However, a year-on-year decrease was registered in the value of total exports to Korea (-4.0%).

Over the same period of comparison, year-on-year increases were registered in the values of imports from most major suppliers, in particular Malaysia (+97.6%), Switzerland (+61.0%), Korea (+11.9%), the Mainland (+11.0%), the USA (+3.2%) and Taiwan (+3.0%). On the other hand, a year-on-year decrease was registered in the value of imports from India (-1.0%).

Analysis by major commodity

Comparing February 2018 with February 2017, increases were registered in the values of total exports of some principal commodity divisions, in particular "miscellaneous manufactured articles (mainly jewellery, goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares)" (by $3.9 billion or 35.8%), "articles of apparel and clothing accessories" (by $2.1 billion or 40.4%) and "electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances, and electrical parts thereof" (by $2.0 billion or 2.2%). However, a decrease was registered in the value of total exports of "telecommunications and sound recording and reproducing apparatus and equipment" (by $3.7 billion or -7.7%).

Over the same period of comparison, decreases were registered in the values of imports of some principal commodity divisions, in particular "telecommunications and sound recording and reproducing apparatus and equipment" (by $8.9 billion or -18.7%), "miscellaneous manufactured articles (mainly jewellery, goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares)" (by $2.0 billion or -11.6%) and "electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances, and electrical parts thereof" (by $1.1 billion or -1.0%). However, an increase was registered in the value of imports of "office machines and automatic data processing machines" (by $2.7 billion or 12.3%).

For the first two months of 2018 as a whole, year-on-year increases were registered in the values of total exports of most principal commodity divisions, in particular "electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances, and electrical parts thereof" (by $31.6 billion or 17.0%), "office machines and automatic data processing machines" (by $9.9 billion or 17.7%) and "miscellaneous manufactured articles (mainly jewellery, goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares)" (by $6.2 billion or 22.6%). However, a year-on-year decrease was registered in the value of total exports of "telecommunications and sound recording and reproducing apparatus and equipment" (by $4.9 billion or -4.5%).

Over the same period of comparison, year-on-year increases were registered in the values of imports of most principal commodity divisions, in particular "electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances, and electrical parts thereof" (by $27.5 billion or 12.8%), "office machines and automatic data processing machines" (by $11.0 billion or 24.8%) and "non-metallic mineral manufactures" (by $4.1 billion or 13.3%). However, a year-on-year decrease was registered in the value of imports of "telecommunications and sound recording and reproducing apparatus and equipment" (by $3.7 billion or -3.5%).

Commentary

A Government spokesman noted that external merchandise trade performed well in early 2018 amid the solid expansion of the global economy. Taking the first two months of 2018 together to remove the distortion caused by the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year holidays, the value of merchandise exports picked up to show double-digit growth over a year earlier, with major markets generally registering notable gains.

The spokesman commented further that, looking ahead, while the sustained expansion of the global economy remains supportive to Hong Kong's exports, uncertainties in the external trading environment have increased visibly in recent weeks due to rising trade tensions between the US and other major economies. If trade conflicts worsen further, the growth of world trade will be curtailed with adverse repercussions on global demand conditions and Hong Kong’s trade outlook. The Government will continue to monitor the developments closely.

Further information

Table 1 at the annex presents the analysis of external merchandise trade statistics for February 2018. Table 2 presents the original monthly trade statistics from January 2015 to February 2018, and Table 3 gives the seasonally adjusted series for the same period.

The values of total exports of goods to 10 main destinations for February 2018 are shown in Table 4, whereas the values of imports of goods from 10 main suppliers are given in Table 5.

Tables 6 and 7 show the values of total exports and imports of 10 principal commodity divisions for February 2018.

All the merchandise trade statistics described here are measured at current prices and no account has been taken of changes in prices between the periods of comparison. A separate analysis of the volume and price movements of external merchandise trade for February 2018 will be released in mid-April 2018.

The February 2018 issue of "Hong Kong External Merchandise Trade" contains detailed analysis on the performance of Hong Kong's external merchandise trade in February 2018 and will be available in mid-April 2018. Users can download the publication free of charge at the website of the C&SD (www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp230.jsp).

Enquiries on merchandise trade statistics may be directed to the Trade Analysis Section (2) of the C&SD (Tel: 2582 5042).

27.3.2018


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