Saturday, January 23, 2016

23/1/16: Russian External Balance 2015

At the end of 2015, based on the preliminary estimates of 2015 balance of payments statistics from the Central Bank of Russia, Russian trade volumes with the rest of the world stood at just under 2010 levels. This is hardly new, as 2010 values of trade - both for exports and imports of goods and services - have been breached back in 3Q 2015. This erases gains between 2010 and 2013 (with 2013 posting all-time record high volumes and values of trade flows)

In 2015, exports revenues fell more than 30% in USD terms and 17% in Euro terms year on year. Imports expenditures fell 35% in USD terms and 22% in Euro terms. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, 4Q figures came in broadly in line with annual figures. This is surprising due to imports and exports-lifting seasonal effects.

As exports shrunk less than imports, current account surplus actually rose both in level terms and relative to GDP. At the peak trade year of 2013, current account surplus was USD35 billion, rising to USD58 billion in 2014. 2015 preliminary estimate puts full year current account surplus at USD66 billion. Relative to GDP, current account surplus rose from 1.7% in 2013 to 5.4% in 2015.

These are remarkable figures, reflective of both devaluation of the ruble, the ability of the economy to take on imports contraction, and the relative resilience of exporters. Exports of goods and services were down massively, still, from USD593 billion in 2013 to USD389 billion in 2015. While trade balance in Goods fell from USD182 billion in 2013 to USD146 billion in 2015, trade deficit in services shrunk from USD58 billion in 2013 to USD37 billion in 2015.

The key to overall balance improvements, however, was in the category of “Other Current Account” - covering foreign earnings expatriation from Russia - here the deficit of USD89 billion in 2013 fell to USD76 billion in 2014 and to USD43 billion in 2015. Similarly, on the balance of payments side, “Fictitious Transactions” line of balance - covering Russian corporates exports of capital from Russia - fell from USD27 billion in 2013 to USD9 billion in 2014 and USD 1 billion in 2015. Balance of payments for Private Sector also improved, dramatically, with deficit of USD63 billion in 2013 ballooning to a deficit of USD152 billion in 2014 before falling to a deficit of USD57 billion in 2015.

BOFIT provides a neat summary table of latest Balance of Payments breakdown figures for 2013-2015:

Source: BOFIT

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