Exports decline 4% in August

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Exports fell in August, declining 4 per cent to on a seasonally adjusted basis from a month earlier.

Total exports for the month were €7.6 billion, compared with €7.9 billion in July.

However, analysts said the figures were still strong, coming after July's near-record performance. Compared to a year earlier, exports were 14 per cent higher.

"Coming after the huge 29 per cent gain in the trade surplus from June to July, the fall in August is no great surprise," Davy Analyst Aidan Corcoran said.

Imports increased by 3 per cent in the same period, rising to €3.84 billion, decreasing the trade surplus by 9 per cent to €3.8 billion.

Merchandise exports were 4 per cent higher in the second quarter compared to the preceding three-month period.

"Reflecting the weak state of domestic demand, imports are likely to contract in Q3 pushing Ireland closer to a Balance of Payments surplus as early as this year," National Irish Bank's chief economist Dr Ronnie O'Toole.

There was also some good news for the high-tech sector, with pharmaceuticals and chemicals growing 3 per cent on last year.

"A study published by the ECB earlier this week ranked Ireland as being the most high-tech exporting country in the euro zone, far outpacing Austria and Finland in second and third place respectively," Dr O'Toole said.

"However more traditional sectors are also gaining on a stronger sterling than in the 2007-2009 period, as well as the first stages of recovery in the UK market. Food exports for the first seven months of the year grew 7 per cent on the same period in 2009, continuing an improving trend since the start of the year."

Between January and July, exports rose 1 per cent, or €273 million, to €51.45 billion compared to the same period a year earlier.

This was particularly evident in the medical and pharmaceutical products sector, which rose by 12 per cent or €1.46 billion. Exports of computer equipment fell by 34 per cent, or €1.3 billion.

Over the seven-month period, exports to the US, Belgium and Britain accounted for 52 per cent of the total value of exports, with the US leading the way.

In the same period, imports fell by 4 per cent €26.3 billion. The value of computer equipment imported fell by 41 per cent or €982 million. Imports of petroleum increased by 29 per cent, while medical and pharmaceutical products rose by 23 per cent. Road vehicles saw a rise of 66 per cent in imports.

Bloxham's chief exconomist Alan McQuaid said the chief worry for indigenous Irish exports is the renewed weakness in the dollar and sterling, which will make it more expensive for exporters to sell their goods into the US and UK.

"But, whatever about the near-term, we still think the greenback and the British pound will strengthen against the euro on a six-month view as the Eurozone’s mounting government debt problems and a slowdown in the German economy start to weigh on the single currency," he said.

"Although some loss of momentum is likely in the merchandise export performance over the next few months, the bottom line is that the export sector offers the one ray of light at the moment in a fairly gloomy economic picture, and will be the key driver of the Irish recovery story going forward."

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