UK trade: February 2019

Total value of UK exports and imports of goods and services in current prices, chained volume measures and implied deflators.

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Cyswllt:
Email Chloe Gibbs

Dyddiad y datganiad:
10 April 2019

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
10 May 2019

1. Main points

  • The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £5.5 billion in the three months to February 2019, as the trade in goods deficit widened £6.5 billion, partially offset by a £0.9 billion widening of the trade in services surplus.

  • Rising imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold), machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals were the main reasons for the widening of the trade in goods deficit in the three months to February 2019.

  • Excluding erratic commodities (including non-monetary gold), the total trade deficit widened £2.0 billion in the three months to February 2019.

  • The trade in goods deficit widened £1.3 billion with EU countries and £5.2 billion with non-EU countries in the three months to February 2019.

  • Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit widened £7.1 billion to £12.7 billion in the three months to February 2019.

  • The total trade deficit widened £15.9 billion in the 12 months to February 2019 as imports of both goods and services increased more than exports.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

Data revision policy

Data within this release have been revised in accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy. Services data in this release have been revised back to January 2018 while goods data have been revised back to January 2019 compared with trade figures published in our previous trade bulletin on 12 March 2019. Data in this release are consistent with the quarterly national accounts for Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2018 published on 29 March 2019.

National Statistics designation status

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade (PDF 72.8KB) on 14 November 2014. We have now responded to all of the specific requirements of the reassessment of UK trade and are in the final stages of providing evidence to the Authority. We are undertaking a programme of improvements to UK trade statistics in line with the UK trade development plan, including more detail and improvements now published to address anticipated future demands. On 24 October 2018 we published an article outlining our achievements so far and forward look with regards to the transformation of our trade statistics. We continue to work with the Office for Statistics Regulation team to regain National Statistics status for UK trade statistics. We welcome feedback on our new trade statistics, developments and future plans. If you have any comments, please email trade@ons.gov.uk.

UK trade data

Unless otherwise specified, data within this bulletin are in current prices.

UK trade data within our monthly trade bulletin are published at around a six-week lag due to the timeliness of source data. For example, the June 2019 publication will include data up to the end of April 2019.

Erratic commodities

Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, we recommend comparing the latest three months against the preceding three months, and the same three months of the previous year.

Oil and other “erratic” commodities can make a large contribution to trade in goods, but often mask the underlying trend in the export or import values due to their volatility. The “erratics” series includes ships, aircraft, precious stones, silver and non-monetary gold. Non-monetary gold can have a particularly large impact on growth rates, due to the large volumes of gold traded on the London markets. Therefore, we also publish data exclusive of these commodities, which may provide a better guide to the emerging trade picture.

Trade asymmetries

These data are our best estimates of bilateral UK trade flows, compiled following internationally agreed standards and using a wide range of robust data sources. However, in some cases alternative estimates of bilateral trade flows are available from the statistical agencies for those countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade. Differences between estimates are known as trade asymmetries and are a known aspect of international trade statistics, affecting bilateral estimates across the globe, not just the UK.

We are heavily engaged in analysis of these asymmetries, developing strong bilateral relationships with other countries to understand, explain and potentially reduce them. We have published a series of analyses showing comparisons and the relative strengths of different estimates, which users may wish to reference to help them better understand the quality of our bilateral trade estimates.

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3. The total trade deficit widened in the three months to February 2019

Figure 1 and Table 1 show the change to trade in goods, services and total trade balances along with exports and imports in the three months to February 2019 compared with the three months to November 2018.

The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £5.5 billion to £13.6 billion in the three months to February 2019 due mainly to a £6.5 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit; goods exports fell £1.6 billion while imports increased £4.9 billion.

The widening of the trade in services surplus partially offset the widening of the trade in goods deficit in the three months to February 2019. The trade in services surplus widened £0.9 billion in the three months to February 2019; exports of services increased £1.9 billion, while imports increased by a lesser £1.0 billion.

Figure 2 shows the UK trade balances on a three-month on three-month basis between February 2017 and February 2019.

The trade in goods deficit widened £6.5 billion to reach a record deficit of £41.4 billion largely due to imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold), which rose £3.2 billion in the three months to February 2019. Increased imports of unspecified goods were largely driven by a rise in imports of non-monetary gold. Excluding erratic commodities, the total trade deficit widened by £2.0 billion to £11.6 billion in the three months to February 2019.

Imports of machinery and transport equipment increased £1.3 billion in the three months to February 2019 due mainly to a £0.8 billion increase in imports of cars. Chemical imports increased £0.9 billion due largely to imports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, organic and other chemicals. Increased imports were partially offset by falling imports of fuels, which fell £1.8 billion.

Falling exports of fuels were the largest contributor to the decrease in exports in the three months to February 2019. Exports of fuels fell £1.4 billion over the period.

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4. The trade in goods deficit widened with both EU and non-EU countries in the three months to February 2019

Figure 3 shows the changes in trade in goods exports, imports and balances with EU and non-EU countries between the three months to November 2018 and the three months to February 2019.

The trade in goods deficit widened £5.2 billion with non-EU and £1.3 billion with EU countries in the three months to February 2019.

Exports to non-EU countries decreased £3.1 billion, while imports from non-EU countries increased £2.1 billion in the three months to February 2019. Falling exports to non-EU countries were due largely to falling exports of fuels, and machinery and transport equipment. Exports of fuels fell £1.2 billion while exports of machinery and transport equipment fell £1.1 billion, £1.0 billion of which was a result of falling car exports.

Imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) were the main contributor to the increase in imports from non-EU countries in the three months to February 2019. Imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) increased £3.3 billion, the majority of which was due to increased imports of non-monetary gold. Fuel imports from non-EU countries fell £1.4 billion while imports of machinery and transport equipment fell £0.5 billion, partially offsetting the increase in imports of unspecified goods.

Imports from EU countries increased £2.8 billion, offset in part by exports, which increased £1.5 billion in the three months to February 2019. The rise in imports was due mainly to a £1.8 billion increase in imports of machinery and transport equipment, of which £0.8 billion was cars. Imports of chemicals from EU countries increased £0.8 billion, £0.4 billion of which was due to increased imports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products.

Machinery and transport equipment was the largest contributor to the increase in exports to EU countries, increasing £1.1 billion in the three months to February 2019, due largely to increased exports of mechanical and electrical machinery as well as of ships and aircraft.

Car exports fell by £0.9 billion in the three months to February 2019 as exports to non-EU countries fell £1.0 billion, following a higher than usual value in September 2018. The increase in car imports in the three months to February 2019 was due mainly to increased imports from EU countries, which increased £0.8 billion. Car imports from the EU continued to grow in February 2019 on a monthly basis following decreases from April to August 2018.

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5. Removing the effect of inflation, the trade deficit widened in the three months to February 2019

This section presents volume and price estimates of the UK trade balances, exports and imports, using chained volume measures (CVMs) and implied deflators (IDEFs). A CVM is a “real” measure in that it has had the effect of inflation removed. An IDEF shows the implied change in average prices for the respective components of the trade balance, for example, the IDEF for imports will show the average price movement for imports.

Figure 4 shows the UK trade balances on a CVM basis, three-month on three-month from February 2017 to February 2019.

In CVM terms, the total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £7.1 billion in the three months to February 2019; this was due to a £7.9 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit, which was partially offset by a £0.8 billion widening in the services surplus.

Goods exports fell by £0.3 billion, while goods imports rose by £7.6 billion in the three months to February 2019; services exports increased £1.5 billion while services imports increased by £0.6 billion.

The largest contributions to the increase in goods import volumes came from unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold), and machinery and transport equipment (mainly cars), which increased by £3.7 billion and £1.5 billion respectively.

There was a large difference between estimates of trade in goods in current price and CVMs in the three months to February 2019. Fuels export and import volumes increased £0.5 billion and £0.7 billion respectively in the three months to February 2019. Increases in volumes of fuels exports and imports were more than offset by falling prices. In current prices, fuels exports and imports fell £1.4 billion and £1.8 billion respectively. The implied deflator for fuels exports and imports fell by 20.0% and 18.8% respectively in the three months to February 2019, largely reflecting falling crude oil prices following price rises to October 2018.

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6. Explore UK trade in goods country-by-commodity data for 2018 via our interactive tools

Explore the 2018 trade in goods data using our interactive tools. Our data breaks down UK trade in goods with 234 countries by 125 commodities.

Use our map to get a better understanding of what goods the UK traded with a particular country. Select a country by hovering over it or using the drop-down menu.

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Notes:

For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are no longer experimental.

These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, via the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

Interactive maps denote country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB).

What about trade in a particular commodity in 2018? What percentage of UK car exports went to the EU? Where did UK imports of tea and coffee come from last year?

Use our interactive tools to understand UK trade of a particular commodity in 2018.

Select a commodity from the drop-down menu, or click through the levels to explore the data.

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Notes:

For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are no longer experimental.

These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, via the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

Interactive maps denote country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB).

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7. The total trade deficit widened in the 12 months to February 2019

Figure 5 and Table 2 show the changes to goods, services and total trade balance along with exports and imports in the 12 months to February 2019 compared with the 12 months to February 2018.

The total UK trade deficit (goods and services) widened £15.9 billion in the 12 months to February 2019, as imports of both goods and services increased more than their respective exports.

The trade in goods deficit widened £10.7 billion in the 12 months to February 2019 as imports of goods increased £22.6 billion compared with exports, which rose by £11.8 billion. The largest contributors to the increase in both exports and imports were fuels, which increased £10.3 billion for imports and £7.8 billion for exports.

The trade in services surplus narrowed £5.2 billion in the 12 months to February 2019 as imports increased £12.6 billion while exports grew by a lesser £7.4 billion. The main contributors to the increase in imports were other business, financial and travel services. A further breakdown of trade in services, providing country by service type detail for 2018, will be published on 24 April 2019.

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8. The trade in goods deficit widened with both EU and non-EU countries in the 12 months to February 2019

Figure 6 shows the changes in goods exports, imports and trade balances with EU and non-EU countries in the 12 months to February 2019 compared with the 12 months to February 2018.

The £10.7 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit in the 12 months to February 2019 was due mainly to trade with non-EU countries. The trade in goods deficit widened £9.8 billion with non-EU and £0.9 billion with EU countries in the 12 months to February 2019.

The widening of the trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries in the 12 months to February 2019 was due mainly to increased imports. Imports from non-EU countries increased £13.2 billion while exports increased by a lesser £3.4 billion.

The largest contributor to the increase in imports from non-EU countries was an £8.5 billion increase in imports of fuels; this was partially offset by falls in imports of machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures. Increasing exports to non-EU countries were driven by increases in fuels and chemicals, which increased £2.5 billion and £1.0 billion respectively.

Imports of goods from EU countries increased £9.4 billion, partially offset by exports, which increased £8.5 billion.

The increase in exports to EU countries was driven by increases of £5.3 billion and £2.7 billion in exports of fuels, and machinery and transport equipment respectively. Increased exports to the EU were broadly offset by rising imports. Imports of machinery and transport equipment increased £2.9 billion, while imports of material manufactures, fuels, and miscellaneous manufactures increased £2.4 billion, £1.8 billion and £1.4 billion respectively.

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9. Revisions

In accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy, data within this release have been revised when compared with estimates in the release published 12 March 2019. Figure 7 shows the revisions to the goods, services and total trade balances from January 2018 to January 2019.

Revisions to total trade from January 2018 to October 2018 occurred because of downward revisions to the trade in services balance in line with balancing adjustments applied to the data to reconcile the three estimates of gross domestic product (GDP); output, income and expenditure. Similarly, upward revisions to the trade in services balance between November and December 2018 are in line with balancing adjustments applied in order to reconcile estimates of GDP within the quarterly national accounts.

The downward revision to the trade in goods balance in January 2019 was mainly a result of additional source data for unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold).

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11. Quality and methodology

Trade is measured through both exports and imports of goods and services. Data are supplied by over 30 sources including several administrative sources, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) being the largest for trade in goods.

This monthly release contains tables showing the total value of trade in goods together with chained volume measures (CVMs) and implied deflators (IDEFs). Figures are analysed by broad commodity group (CP, CVMs and IDEFs) and according to geographical area (CP only). In addition, the UK trade statistical bulletin also includes early monthly estimates of the value of trade in services.

Further qualitative data and information can be found in the attached datasets. This includes data on:

Detailed methodological notes are published in the UK Balance of Payments, The Pink Book 2018.

The UK trade methodology web pages have been developed to provide detailed information about the methods used to produce UK trade statistics.

The UK trade Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • uses and users of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

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