Merchandise exports shot up 30.6% over the same month last year in March, following February’s 154.9% jump and supported by stronger shipments of cars and computers. Meanwhile, merchandise imports jumped 38.1% over the same month last year in March (February: +17.3% yoy), marking the best result since February 2017. The reading was aided by the supportive base affect and higher international commodity prices.
As a result, the merchandise trade balance deteriorated from the previous month, recording a USD 13.8 billion surplus in March (February 2021: USD 37.9 billion surplus; March 2020: USD 20.0 billion surplus). Lastly, the trend pointed down, with the 12-month trailing merchandise trade balance recording a USD 638.0 billion surplus in March, compared to the USD 644.2 billion surplus in February.
Looking ahead, export growth will likely slow sharply later this year as the base effect becomes less favorable and demand for pandemic-related goods eases, notwithstanding the global economic recovery.
Our panelists forecast that exports will expand 9.4% in 2021 and imports will rise 11.9%, bringing the trade surplus to USD 533 billion. In 2022, FocusEconomics panelists expect exports will expand 4.9%, while imports will rise 6.6%, bringing the trade surplus to USD 519 billion.