Exports of goods and services increased by £0.4 billion to an all-time high of £49.4 billion in January from £49.0 billion in December, boosted by higher sales of machinery and transport equipment, mainly electrical machinery and cars, and chemicals. Exports rose the most to France (8 percent), the Netherlands (7.1 percent), the US (7 percent), China (5.1 percent) and Germany (4.9 percent). By contrast, sales fell to Spain (-20.3 percent), Switzerland (-10.3 percent) and Canada (-8.8 percent).
Imports of goods and services rose by £0.3 billion also to a record £51.4 billion from £51.0 billion in the previous month, as purchases of oil and chemicals rose the most. Imports rose from Norway (52.9 percent), the Netherlands (10 percent), Spain (3.5 percent) and Germany (2.5 percent); but fell from Japan (-18.2 percent), France (-12.5 percent), the US (-7.4 percent), Switzerland (-5.4 percent) and China (-1.1 percent).
The trade in goods deficit narrowed by £0.1 billion to £10.8 billion between December 2016 and January 2017. In the same period, imports of oil increased from the non-EU countries, specifically Norway, which restricted the narrowing of the deficit. However, the erratics series had less impact on the trade in goods deficit in January 2017 than seen in previous months, with both exports and imports of these volatile commodities decreasing. When removing oil and the erratic commodities (ships, aircraft, precious stones, silver and non-monetary gold) the deficit narrowed by £0.8 billion, to £11.2 billion on the month.
On the price front, export prices increased by 2.1 percent and import prices increased by 2.5 percent. The value of sterling was 1.7 percent lower in January 2017 compared with the December 2016 average, following appreciation in November and December 2016. However, it remains 13.1 percent lower when compared with January 2016.
Between the 3 months to October 2016 and the 3 months to January 2017, the total trade deficit (goods and services) narrowed by £4.7 billion to £6.4 billion. The narrowing of the deficit reflected a greater rise in exports (6.3 percent) than the rise in imports (2.7 percent). Exports of services increased by 1.7 percent in the 3 months to January 2017; this led to an increase in the trade in services surplus for that period. Exports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold), oil, machinery and transport equipment (mainly electrical machinery, aircraft and cars) and chemicals were the largest contributors to the 3-monthly growth in exports of goods for the same period. The deficit of trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics, widened by £2.3 billion to £34.7 billion.