HK exports up overall; domestic sector weak

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am

Year's goods shipments rise 9.4 per cent to HK$2.47 trillion; just 5pc made in city

Hong Kong's total goods exports last year grew 9.4 per cent in value over 2005, but the pace of growth dipped to 13.7 per cent year on year in December, from November's 14.2 per cent, the government said yesterday.

Re-exports, which grew 10 per cent, accounted for the vast majority of the total of HK$2.47 trillion last year. The value of domestic exports fell 1.1 per cent from 2005.

Domestic exports accounted for 5.45 per cent of all goods exports, down from 6.04 per cent in 2005, when exports were HK$2.25 trillion. Export growth for the year was down from the 11.4 per cent seen in 2005.

Imports rose 14.5 per cent year on year, to HK$235.5 billion, in December. Full-year imports rose 11.6 per cent. The trade deficit leapt to HK$138.8 billion, from HK$79.3 billion in 2005, the Census and Statistics Department said.

Export growth fluctuated wildly, peaking with a Lunar New Year-distorted 20.5 per cent in February. Exports declined marginally in May.

'Looking ahead, the generally resilient global economy, the vibrant mainland economy and the fall in oil prices should render support for external demand. The weakness of the US dollar is also another favourable factor to Hong Kong's exports,' a government spokesman said.

Standard Chartered Bank economist Tai Hui said he expected the growth momentum to continue in the current quarter, although double-digit increases might be more difficult to achieve. The bank is forecasting total exports to rise by about 7 per cent in the quarter, half the pace of growth of a year ago, and by 5.9 per cent this year.

Exports last month were HK$214.7 billion, fuelled by strong re-exports to the mainland. The 13.7 per cent increase beat the consensus estimate of 12.1 per cent.

Re-exports - products made elsewhere but shipped through the city - rose 18 per cent to HK$206.2 billion year on year in December, making up for the almost 40 per cent drop in domestic exports, to HK$8.5 billion. Growth was particularly strong for re-exports to the Netherlands, up 38.5 per cent; to the UK, up 36.8 per cent; to the mainland, up 20.3 per cent; and to the US, up 15.3 per cent.

Re-exports of clothing surged almost 50 per cent, to HK$5.4 billion, and those of office machines rose more than a third, to HK$7.6 billion.

The continued drop in domestic exports last month was largely accounted for by clothing, exports of which shrank by more than half, to HK$3.7 billion, and office machines, down by 58.9 per cent, to HK$1.1 billion. Electrical appliance exports fell 44.7 per cent, to HK$645 million. Domestic exports to European markets, the US and Japan fell by over 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, a quarterly survey found more respondents expect their business to improve rather than worsen this quarter compared with the last quarter of 2006. The communications, real estate, business services and financial sectors were the most optimistic.

Senior managers of 560 big firms in 10 sectors were interviewed between December 11 and January 11 for the department's latest quarterly business trends survey.

Comparing the percentage of respondents expecting their situation to be better to those expecting it to worsen, the financial sector is the most upbeat about business volume and hiring. The restaurant and hotel sector is the most positive about prices and charges.