Exports and imports show sharp year-on-year declines for October

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 November, 2009, 12:00am

The city imported and exported far fewer goods last month than a year ago, official data shows, attributing the sharp drops to a high base of comparison - dramatic growth in trade in October last year.

But compared to September, trade last month improved. Exports rose 4 per cent while imports increased 8.3 per cent, reflecting optimism for growing consumer demand for everything from computers to baby carriages.

'The external environment, whilst still subject to considerable uncertainties, has been improving gradually,' a government spokesman said. 'If this continues, it should hopefully render some support to Hong Kong's external trade in the period ahead.'

Over the first 10 months of this year, exports dropped 15.8 per cent from a year ago while imports shrank 15.2 per cent, Census and Statistics Department data showed.

Year on year, the declines in trade widened to double digits last month.

Total exports shrank 13.1 per cent in value year on year to HK$240.8 billion, compared with an 8.6 per cent drop in September.

Re-exports decreased 12.5 per cent to HK$235.4 billion, and domestic exports were down 32.9 per cent to HK$5.4 billion.

Imports fell 10.7 per cent to HK$259.9 billion compared to a year-on-year decline of just 3.1 per cent for the previous month. The trade deficit narrowed to HK$19.19 billion from HK$29.14 billion in September.

The spokesman pointed to trade growth in October last year, when many shipments were brought forward out of fear that the global financial meltdown would lead to cancelled orders.

Hefty declines in trade followed in November and December, signalling that import and export growth may be recorded this month and the next.

Year on year, exports last month decreased 9 per cent in value for electrical machinery and appliances, 11.6 per cent for telecommunications and sound recording equipment and 28.1 per cent for clothing.

Hong Kong exported 8.7 per cent less to Asia last month. Trade to the mainland was down 8.9 per cent and there were double-digit declines for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan. Exports to Britain and the US also decreased, by more than 20 per cent, but exports rose 19.1 per cent for India, 6.3 per cent for Taiwan and 1.6 per cent for Australia. Consumer demand in the US and other major markets largely dictates what and when retailers decide to buy.

Hong Kong's export-oriented economy is unlikely to improve much in the short term, despite a number of manufacturers and exporters still having orders in hand.