The seasonally adjusted trade balance was in a record Stg7.94 billion deficit in January, nearly double the slightly larger revised Stg3.57 billion shortfall posted in December.
The dramatic deterioration was attributable to a combination of sharply weaker exports and stronger imports. The former slumped 7.7 percent on the month to their lowest level since June 2016. A particularly large drop in airbus sales, offsetting December's bounce, did much of the damage. Meantime, imports were up 2.9 percent with pharmaceuticals notably in demand. This was their fourth increase in as many months and, at E45.13 billion, a new record high.
January's red ink all but guarantees a poor first quarter for external trade and warns that total net exports could well subtract from real GDP growth, rather than supporting it as they did in the fourth quarter. More generally, the latest figures will add to doubts about French international competitiveness even at current levels of the euro.