Thursday, 21 July 2005

Euro-zone, Japanese trade surpluses fall

Data released by Eurostat yesterday shows that the euro-zone trade with the rest of the world in May 2005 produced a 2.2 billion euro surplus, compared with +7.2 bn in May 2004. The April 2005 balance was +2.0 billion. On a month-on-month seasonally-adjusted basis, though, the trade surplus fell in May as exports rose 1.4 percent while imports rose 2.6 percent.

EU25 trade showed a 7.3 billion euro deficit compared with -3.2 billion in May 2004. In April 2005, the balance was -8.9 billion. On a month-on-month seasonally-adjusted basis, exports rose by 0.8 percent in May while imports rose by 0.4 percent.

The previous day, Eurostat had released data showing that industrial production in the euro zone fell 0.3 percent in May compared to April. Production had risen 0.7 percent in April and fallen 0.1 percent in March. In EU25, production fell 0.2 percent in May after rising 0.9 percent in April and falling 0.4 percent in March.

Today, Japan's Finance Ministry reported that the country's trade surplus shrank 23.5 percent in June from a year earlier to 873.1 billion yen, the third straight month of falls. The fall, however, was smaller than expected. Exports rose 3.6 percent in June from a year earlier while they rose 2.4 percent from a month earlier on a seasonally adjusted basis. Imports jumped 11.0 percent from a year earlier and 2.9 percent on a month-on-month basis, mainly due to higher oil prices.

Most economists remain optimistic for the Japanese economy, though. Yesterday's report by the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan that the book-to-bill ratio for Japanese chip-making equipment in June hit 1.09, the first time in six months that orders exceeded sales, would seem to support that optimism. The US-based research group VLSI reported yesterday that worldwide, the book-to-bill ratio for chip-making equipment rose to 0.91 in June from 0.83 in May.

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