UK Trade, 4th Quarter 2021:  The year-end figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that total goods exports were +16.5% higher than in the 3rd quarter of the year while imports grew by +2.7%.  However, there was a significant change in the level of trade in non-monetary gold which distorts the picture;  excluding this and other precious metals, exports increased by +8.2% quarter-on-quarter while imports were up by +5.1%.

The trend for exports was driven by increases with both the EU and the rest of the world, but the rise in imports was entirely from outside the EU with a marginal fall in the value of arrivals from the EU.  The increase in EU exports was mainly in fuels, chemicals and machinery & transport equipment, while the non-EU deliveries were led by machinery & transport equipment.  For imports, the main driver of the increase from non-EU countries was in fuels;  for arrivals from the EU, an increase in chemicals and fuels was off-set by a fall in imports of machinery & transport equipment and crude materials.

Looking at the annual data for 2021, exports of goods increased by +4.9% (to £312.4 billion) compared to 2020 but this was still -10.5% lower than in 2018 (the pre-pandemic peak year).  For imports, there was an increase of +8.4% (to £465.5 billion) compared to 2020 but this was -4.8% lower than in 2018.

There are more details in the ONS Statistical Bulletin which you can download from their web-site at (11 February) or request from MTA.


European Commission Economic Sentiment Indicator, February 2022:  The European Commission (EC) draws from a range of surveys to construct confidence indicators for six sectors of the economy and then uses five of these (financial services is not used) make up its Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI).  The other point to note is that although labelled as “February 2022”, the data collection period was from the 1st to the 18th of the month, so the data really refers to January.  Importantly, of course, it means that this refers to a period before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The headline ESI in both the EU and the Euro-zone improved for the first time since October and is back at close to the December level.  This was a balance between improved confidence levels for services, retail trade and, to a lesser extent, construction, while industry was flat and there was a small drop in consumers’ confidence;  financial services confidence fell sharply.

Industry confidence was stable at a very high historical level thanks to broadly unchanged assessments of output in the coming 3 months, current order book levels and stocks of finished products.  Although not included in the calculation of confidence levels, export orders books were assessed to be unchanged but the trend for output over the past 3 months was negative.

There weas a mix of trends of the major European economies with Spain, France, Germany and Italy all seeing an increase in their own ESI reading, but there was a fall for the Netherlands and Poland.  Among the EU Member States, only Czechia (up on their previous reading) and Slovakia (down) had an ESI reading that was below the long-run average level for that country, although with the candidate countries also included in the survey, Montenegro (higher than in the previous month) and Turkey (lower) were also in this position.

You can download the EC report and statistical annex from their web-site at or you can request it from MTA.

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