The seasonally adjusted trade balance returned another sizeable E6.57 billion shortfall in February, down from E8.06 billion in January but still the second largest deficit in four years.
Exports were up 1.6 percent on the month thanks to gains in aerospace, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and electrical equipment. However, this reversed only a small part of January's 7.6 percent nosedive and sales overseas were 0.3 percent below their level a year ago. At the same time, imports were down 2.0 percent versus January, their first decline since last September but a small enough drop to leave their second highest level on record.
The disappointing February data put the average trade gap so far last quarter at 7.32 billion, a 60 percent increase versus the E4.56 billion mean posted in the final quarter of 2016. Total net exports boosted fourth quarter real GDP growth by just 0.1 percentage points but on current trends, probably had a much more significant negative impact in January-March.