Thursday, September 24, 2009

Economics 25/09/2009: Notes on trade flows

Per separate CSO release (see national accounts and broader trade flows discussion here), however, the positive trends in exports shown in the figures for Q2 2009 have not held into Q3: seasonally adjusted exports fell by 8% in July 2009, relative to June 2009 and imports hit a new low point for recent years.

June 2009 exports showed some bounce (due to volatility) having increased by 5% relative to May 2009 while imports decreased by 9%. Thus, July changes erase positive momentum in exports and continue to exacerbate negative movements in imports.

Given that for volatile time series during the periods of contraction seasonal adjustments can mask true extent of falls, taken on an unadjusted basis, the value of exports in July 2009 was 5% down on July 2008, while the value of imports was down 31%. The value of exports in June 2009 was up 5% on June 2008 and the value of imports was down 24%.

This is worrisome, as H1 2009 posted overall rise in exports of 2% on yoy basis. This was led by MNCs-dominated sectors: medical and pharmaceutical products increased by 22%, organic chemicals by 19%, other transport equipment (including aircraft) by 262% (€414m) and professional, scientific and controlling apparatus by 11%. On the back of large layoffs in the sector, computer equipment decreased by 27%. Capital investment cycle hit hard electrical machinery (down 28%), industrial machinery down 37%, telecom equipment fell 23% and power generating equipment contracted by 45%.

Imports decreased 21% in H1 2009. Aside from predictable cars and retail goods, investment-related goods imports also contracted severely: computer equipment by 40%, specialised machinery by 54%, industrial machinery by 36% and electrical machinery by 16%.. Petroleum products imports fell by 38%, signaling that MNCs might be reducing output here, while increasing value of output registered to Ireland (transfer pricing). Ditto for small increase of 4% in medical and pharmaceutical products, and organic chemicals also rising by 4%, - both major inputs into allegedly booming pharma and medical devices sectors. Goods from the United States increased by 34% - again a sign of more value being booked on importation side of MNCs.
Table above shows that MNCs-dominated sector of chemicals and related products (pharma etc) has increased its overall share of exports in June 2009 and in H1 2009. Other sectors remained relatively stable with modest increases in the share, except for computers-dominated machinery and transport equipment sector. But there is more trouble ahead:
In bold in the above table I have marked those sectors where there has been expanding imbalance between exports and imports. This imbalance suggest to me that international companies are shipping fewer inputs into Ireland, while managing to ship more outputs. This can only be done in a wondrous world of accounting procedures designed to reduce tax exposure.

Again, banana republic…
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