UK trade: January 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:
12 March 2019

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
10 April 2019

1. Main points

  • The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £1.3 billion in the three months to January 2019, as the trade in goods deficit widened £2.4 billion, partially offset by a £1.1 billion widening of the trade in services surplus.

  • Falling exports of cars and fuels, and rising car imports, were the main reasons for the widening of the trade in goods deficit in the three months to January 2019.

  • The trade in goods deficit widened £1.6 billion with EU countries and £0.8 billion with non-EU countries in the three months to January 2019.

  • Excluding erratic commodities, the total trade deficit widened £3.4 billion to £12.1 billion in the three months to January 2019.

  • Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit widened £1.6 billion to £8.8 billion in the three months to January 2019.

  • The total trade deficit widened £8.2 billion in the 12 months to January 2019 as imports of both goods and services increased more than exports.

  • Revisions resulted in a £0.8 billion narrowing of the total trade deficit in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2018, due largely to upward revisions to the trade in services surplus.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

Data revision policy

In accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy, data in this release have been revised back to January 2018 compared with trade figures published in our previous trade bulletin on 11 February 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 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.

Naming conventions in MRETS time series

Within this release we have made changes to the naming conventions in our UK trade time series dataset. Changes relate to the titles of the series; CDID codes will remain unchanged. For example, “Balance of Payments: Trade in Goods & Services: Total balance: CP SA £m” has been renamed to “Total Trade (TT): WW: Balance: BOP: CP: SA”. Data are not affected by the changes to naming conventions. If you have any comments, please email trade@ons.gov.uk.

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 January 2019

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

The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £1.3 billion to £10.4 billion in the three months to January 2019 due mainly to a £2.4 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit; goods exports fell £1.3 billion while imports increased £1.1 billion.

The widening of the trade in services surplus partially offset the widening of the trade in goods deficit in the three months to January 2019. The trade in services surplus widened £1.1 billion in the three months to January 2019; exports of services increased £2.8 billion, while imports increased by a lesser £1.7 billion.

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

A combination of falling exports of cars and fuels, and rising imports of cars, chemicals and miscellaneous manufactures resulted in the widening of the trade in goods deficit in the three months to January 2019.

Cars were the largest contributor to the widening of the trade deficit as exports fell and imports increased in the three months to January 2019. Exports of machinery and transport equipment fell £0.5 billion due mainly to a £1.2 billion fall in exports of cars. The fall in car exports was partially offset by increases in exports of other machinery and transport equipment. Imports of machinery and transport equipment increased £1.0 billion, within which imports of cars increased £1.0 billion.

Exports of fuels decreased £1.7 billion in the three months to January 2019, due largely to falling oil prices. Unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) exports increased £0.7 billion partially offsetting some of the fall in fuels, and machinery and transport equipment.

Imports of chemicals and miscellaneous manufactures also increased by £0.6 billion and £0.5 billion respectively. Increases in imports of cars, chemicals and miscellaneous manufactures were offset in part by £0.9 billion falls in both imports of fuels and imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold).

Excluding erratic commodities, the total trade deficit widened £3.4 billion to £12.1 billion in the three months to January 2019.

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

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

The trade in goods deficit widened £1.6 billion with EU countries and £0.8 billion with non-EU countries in the three months to January 2019.

Imports from EU countries increased £2.3 billion, offset in part by exports, which increased £0.7 billion in the three months to January 2019. The rise in imports was due mainly to a £2.0 billion increase in machinery and transport equipment, of which £0.9 billion was cars. The largest contributor to the increase in exports to EU countries was also machinery and transport equipment, which increased £0.4 billion, due mainly to a £0.2 billion increase in ships and aircraft.

Exports to non-EU countries decreased £2.0 billion, while imports from non-EU countries fell £1.3 billion in the three months to January 2019. The largest contributor to the fall in imports from non-EU countries was a £1.0 billion fall in machinery and transport equipment, £0.7 billion of which was due to a decrease in imports of ships and aircraft. Imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) and fuels also fell by £0.8 billion and £0.6 billion respectively.

As in previous months, cars have had a large impact on the trade balance. Car exports fell by £1.2 billion in the three months to January 2019 as exports to non-EU countries fell £1.1 billion, following a higher than usual value in September 2018. The increase in car imports in the three months to January 2019 was due mainly to increased imports from EU countries. Imports of cars increased £1.0 billion, £0.9 billion of which was due to increased imports from the EU. Car imports from the EU continued to grow on a monthly basis following decreases from April to August 2018.

The UK trade in fuels surplus with EU countries narrowed while the deficit with non-EU countries widened in the three months to January 2019. Assuming a minimal change in volume in the short-term, falling oil prices will result in UK exporters receiving a lower price for their exports, meaning a fall in the value of exports. Conversely, UK importers of oil will be faced with cheaper imports, resulting in a fall in the value of imports. The UK is a net exporter of fuels to the EU and a net importer of fuels from non-EU countries, so any fall in oil prices is likely to result in an increase in the balance with non-EU countries while decreasing the balance with EU countries.

In the three months to January 2019, the surplus in fuels with EU countries narrowed £0.1 billion as fuel exports increased in chained volume measures, offsetting some of the price fall. In the same period, the fuels deficit with non-EU countries widened £0.7 billion as the increase in import volume outweighed the fall in price.

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5. Removing the effect of inflation, the trade deficit widened in the three months to January 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 measure that has had the effect of inflation removed. An IDEF shows the implied change in average prices for the respective components of the trade balance.

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

In CVM terms, the total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £1.6 billion in the three months to January 2019; this was due to a £2.8 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit, which was partially offset by a £1.3 billion widening in the services surplus.

Goods exports fell by £0.5 billion, while goods imports rose by £2.3 billion in the three months to January 2019; services exports increased £2.6 billion while services imports increased by £1.3 billion.

The largest contributions to the increase in goods import volumes were fuels, and machinery and transport equipment, which increased by £1.3 billion and £0.8 billion respectively, offset in part by falling imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold).

The largest contributors to the fall in goods export volumes in the three months to January 2019 were machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals, which fell £1.1 billion and £0.3 billion respectively. Exports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) and fuels increased £0.6 billion and £0.3 billion respectively, partially offsetting the decreases in exports of machinery and transport equipment and chemicals.

Figure 5 shows the CVM and IDEF for goods imports on a three-month on three-month basis between January 2017 and January 2019.

Imports of goods increased £1.1 billion in current prices compared with a rise of £2.3 billion in chained volume measures as prices fell by 1.1% in the three months to January 2019.

Falling oil prices and the resulting 18.1% fall in the implied deflator of fuels was the main driver in the divergence between goods imports in current prices and CVMs.

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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 January 2019

Figure 6 shows the change to goods, services and total trade balances along with exports and imports in the 12 months to January 2019 compared with the 12 months to January 2018.

The total UK trade deficit (goods and services) widened £8.2 billion in the 12 months to January 2019, with imports of both goods and services increasing more than their respective exports.

The trade in services surplus narrowed £4.8 billion in the 12 months to January 2019 as imports increased £11.2 billion while exports grew by a lesser £6.4 billion. The main contributors to the increase in imports were financial, other business, and insurance and pension services. A further breakdown of trade in services, providing a country by service type breakdown for 2018, will be published on 24 April 2019.

The trade in goods deficit widened £3.4 billion in the 12 months to January 2019 as imports of goods increased £14.0 billion compared with exports, which rose by £10.6 billion. The largest contributors to the increase in both exports and imports were fuels (mainly oil), which increased £10.5 billion for imports and £7.1 billion for exports.

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

Figure 7 shows the changes in goods exports, imports and trade balances with EU and non-EU countries in the 12 months to January 2019 compared with the 12 months to January 2018.

The £3.4 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit in the 12 months to January 2019 was due mainly to trade with non-EU countries. The trade in goods deficit widened £3.6 billion with non-EU countries and narrowed £0.1 billion with the EU in the 12 months to January 2019.

Exports of goods to EU countries increased £7.6 billion, but were offset broadly by a £7.5 billion increase in imports. Imports of goods from non-EU countries increased £6.5 billion, while exports increased by a lesser £3.0 billion.

The largest contributor to the increase in imports from non-EU countries was an £8.4 billion increase in imports of fuels; this was partially offset by falls in imports of machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures. Exports to non-EU countries increased £3.0 billion, due mainly to exports of fuels and material manufactures, which rose by £2.2 billion and £0.5 billion respectively.

The increase in exports to EU countries was driven by increases of £5.0 billion and £2.0 billion in fuels, and machinery and transport equipment, respectively. Increased exports to the EU were broadly offset by rising imports. Fuels and material manufactures made the largest contributions to the rise in EU imports, increasing by £2.1 billion and £2.3 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 11 February 2019. Figure 8 shows the revisions to the goods, services and total trade balances from Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018 to Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2018.

Revisions were due mainly to revised services data. In Quarter 4 2018 the trade in services balance contributed £1.1 billion to the upward revision of £0.8 billion in the total trade balance as exports and imports were revised up by £3.3 billion and £2.3 billion respectively. Intellectual property and other business services were the main contributors to the upward revision of services in Quarter 4, while imports revisions were due primarily to financial and other business services.

In Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2018, the total trade balance was revised upward by £1.1 billion, due largely to exports of services, which were revised up £1.3 billion due mostly to revised estimates of intellectual property, other business, and personal, cultural and recreational services.

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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 (values 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

  • quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Chloe Gibbs
trade@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 651988