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Statistical bulletin: UK Trade, October 2015

Released: 10 December 2015 Download PDF

Main points for October 2015

  • UK trade shows import and export activity and is a main contributor to the overall economic growth of the UK. All data are shown on a seasonally adjusted, balance of payments basis, at current prices unless otherwise stated.
  • The UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services was estimated to have been £4.1 billion in October 2015, a widening of £3.1 billion from September 2015. The widening is attributed to trade in goods where the deficit has widened from £8.8 billion in September 2015, to £11.8 billion in October 2015.
  • The trade in goods widening was mainly the result of a large increase in imports of goods; up £2.3 billion to £35.4 billion between September 2015 and October 2015. This increase mainly reflected a rise in imports of finished manufactures of £1.1 billion. Exports of goods decreased by £0.7 billion to £23.5 billion in October 2015.
  • In the 3 months to October 2015, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services was estimated to have been £8.4 billion; widening by £2.4 billion from the 3 months to July 2015.
  • Between the 3 months to July 2015 and the 3 months to October 2015, the trade in goods deficit widened by £2.5 billion to £31.6 billion. This widening was mainly attributed to a £1.6 billion fall in exports of fuel and a £1.3 billion rise in the imports of machinery and transport equipment.
  • Between the 3 months to July 2015 and the 3 months to October 2015, the trade in services surplus widened by £0.2 billion to £23.2 billion.

Main figures for October 2015

Table 1: Balance of UK trade in goods and services, October 2014 and August to October 2015

£ billion
    Balance of trade in goods Balance of trade in services Total trade balance
EU Non-EU Total
2014 Oct -6.8 -2.2 -9.0 7.9 -1.1
2015 Aug -7.1 -3.8 -11.0 7.7 -3.2
Sept -7.1 -1.7 -8.8 7.7 -1.1
  Oct -8.1 -3.7 -11.8 7.7 -4.1

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 1: Balance of UK trade, October 2013 to October 2015

Figure 1: Balance of UK trade, October 2013 to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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(i) Understanding and working with UK trade statistics

Short guide to UK trade

UK Trade shows the extent of import and export activity and is an important contributor to the overall economic growth of the UK. Trade is measured through both imports and exports of goods and/or services. Data are supplied from over 30 feeder sources including a variety of administrative sources, the main one being HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This monthly release contains tables showing the total value of trade in goods together with index numbers of volume and price. Figures are analysed by broad commodity group (values and indices) and according to geographical areas (values only). In addition the UK Trade statistical bulletin also includes early monthly estimates of the value of trade in services.

This bulletin focuses more on trade in goods due to the coverage and comprehensiveness of the administrative data sources available for goods as well as it being easier to quantify and measure. Trade in services is harder to measure, and source data is provided mainly on a quarterly or annual basis principally from ITIS (International Trade in Service). Monthly estimates are created using this quarterly data on services, therefore the data are less robust on a monthly basis compared with goods. 

As more information becomes available on trade in services this bulletin will focus on the values, volumes and geographic breakdown in a 3 monthly cycle described below:

Month

Trade in services detail
March, June, September and December Focus on the estimated quarterly change in exports and imports of services by the main types of service
April, July, October, January Focus on trade in services in volume terms
May, August, November, February Focus on trade in services with EU and selected non-EU countries

 

Understanding UK trade

We make every effort to provide informative commentary on the data in this release. Where possible, the commentary draws on evidence from other sources of information to help explain possible reasons behind the observed changes. However, in some instances it can prove difficult to draw out detailed reasons for movements, consequently, it is not possible for all data movements to be fully explained.

Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, it is recommended to compare the latest 3 months against the preceding 3 months and the same 3 months of the previous year.

When examining the trade in goods data, oil and “erratics”, which are high value, low volume products, are removed from the analysis as they are extremely influential on trade in goods as a whole. Therefore we publish data inclusive and exclusive of these categories. We also provide a separate analysis of oil because it is subject to erratic price fluctuations and therefore volume is provided in metric tonnes as well as value (£ million).

Strengths and weaknesses of the data

Strengths

Quality of trade in goods data

The quality of the source data for trade in goods is high in terms of the timeliness, comprehensiveness and coverage and this level of quality compares well internationally. The data are used across government, business and academia and feed into a number of other outputs and publications, including GDP and balance of payments. The Bank of England use the total figures to make policy decisions, whereas government departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are interested in the individual country detail.

We have frequent communication with our suppliers to discuss quality, including regular meetings, telephone conversations and email correspondence. Service level agreements are in place to define the level of quality expected in the data received and these are reviewed annually. Data suppliers have their own internal quality assurance processes to meet the quality standards outlined in the service level agreements and we work closely with them to understand these. Suppliers are required to advise us of any changes to the collection or processing of the data to ensure our expectations are still met.

When data is received by the trade team we conduct our own initial quality assurance. Further quality analysis is then conducted at several stages of processing; this is detailed in a process map and quality assurance plan. If there are any quality concerns we work closely with the supplier to address these.  

We have regular discussions with users on the quality of our data and provide comprehensive explanations of the terms, methodology and processes we use. Eurostat is an important customer influence and helps improve the quality of our data through task force meetings and by producing quality guidelines

Timeliness of publications

The UK Trade publication is very timely (generally 40 days after the period to which it refers), helping to inform policy and to assess UK economic performance.  

Weaknesses

Quality and timeliness of trade in services data

Where trade in goods has one main data supplier, there are a large number of suppliers of trade in services data. Additionally, a number are voluntary, so it can be difficult to establish and maintain the same quality assurance processes and relationships with these businesses or suppliers.

Due to the collection methods and complexities of quantifying trade in services, data is less timely than trade in goods estimates. The data is processed quarterly, so monthly forecasts are made to provide a complete trade total.

Monthly volatility

Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, we recommend comparing the latest 3 months against the preceding 3 months and the same 3 months of the previous year, however we also recognise the importance to users of an early estimate of trade therefore we continue to produce a monthly estimate.

UK trade National Statistics suspension

Due to a series of errors during 2014, the UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade on 14 November 2014. The Authority's reassessment of UK Trade against the Code of Practice for Official Statistics has been completed. We are committed to meeting the requirements and regaining National Statistics status for UK Trade as soon as possible and will keep users informed of progress.

One of the recommendations of the reassessment was to consult with users on the use of UK trade statistics. The results of this user engagement survey (414.5 Kb Word document) can be found on our website.

During the next few months we will be improving this release and its associated commentary based on the Authority’s reassessment. We would welcome any feedback you might have on the improvements. To provide feedback on the bulletin please contact us via email trade@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Definitions and explanations

A glossary of terms is published in the UK Trade Glossary (124.5 Kb Pdf) and the UK Balance of Payments - The Pink Book, 2015.

Use of the data

UK trade is a main economic indicator due to the importance of international trade to the UK economy. It is also a very timely statistic, providing an early indicator of what is happening more generally in the economy.

In addition, it is a major component of 2 other main economic indicators: UK gross domestic product (GDP) and the UK balance of payments. This means that there is a threefold potential for UK Trade statistics to inform the government’s view of the UK economy, as well as the views of others, such as economists, city analysts, academics, the media and international organisations.

Notes on tables

Rounding:

The sum of constituent items in tables does not always agree exactly with the totals shown due to rounding.

Symbols:

.. Not applicable

- Nil or less than half the final digit shown.

(ii) Summary of latest UK Trade statistics

Monthly analysis

The deficit on trade in goods and services for October 2015 was £4.1 billion compared with a deficit of £1.1 billion in September 2015. The widening of the deficit reflected a decrease in exports and an increase in imports between September 2015 and October 2015.

In October 2015, exports decreased by £0.7 billion (1.6%) to £42.2 billion; all of this decrease is attributed to goods, specifically chemicals, which decreased by £0.8 billion. Total imports increased by £2.4 billion to £46.3 billion over the same period. £2.3 billion of the increase was attributed to imports of goods, specifically imports of machinery and transport equipment (up £0.9 billion), chemicals (up £0.5 billion) and fuels (up £0.5 billion).

The deficit on trade in goods was £11.8 billion in October 2015; a £3.0 billion widening from September 2015.

Imports of goods from EU and non-EU countries each rose by £1.2 billion between September and October 2015; a 7.8% growth in imports from countries outside the EU and a 6.4% growth in imports from countries within EU. The increase in imports from the EU mainly reflects an increase in imports of machinery and transport equipment (up £0.6 billion) and chemicals (up £0.3 billion).

Exports to countries outside the EU decreased by £0.9 billion (6.6%), mainly reflecting a £0.7 billion fall in exports of chemicals. Exports to the EU rose by £0.2 billion (1.4%), partially offsetting the rise in non-EU exports.

The UK’s deficit with countries outside the EU widened and the UK’s deficit with the EU reached a record deficit of £8.1 billion.

3 monthly analysis

In the 3 months to October 2015, the total trade deficit widened to £8.4 billion from a £6.1 billion, attributed to a £1.6 billion (2.3%) fall in exports of goods and a £0.9 billion (0.9%) rise in imports of goods. The fall in exports reflects a £1.6 billion decrease in exports of fuels (primarily oil), whilst the rise in imports reflects a £1.3 billion increase in machinery and transport equipment (partially offset by falls elsewhere). The trade in services surplus increased to £23.2 billion; an increase of £0.2 billion from the 3 months to July 2015.

The UK trade in goods deficit with Germany reached a record high in the 3 months to October 2015 of £8.4 billion as imports of goods increased £0.4 billion to a record high of £15.8 billion.

In the 3 months to October 2015, the UK’s deficit with countries outside the EU widened by £1.6 billion to £9.3 billion. Exports of goods fell by £1.8 billion (4.5%), whilst imports decreased by £0.1 billion (0.3%). In the same period, the UK’s deficit with the EU widened by £0.9 billion to £22.3 billion as imports rose more significantly than exports.

(iii) Longer-term perspective

International comparisons of trade

This section compares movements in the UK’s export growth rates with its G7 counterparts (Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, US). Figure 2 shows the range of G7 annual export growth rates between 1994 and 2014 using OECD data.

UK export growth averaged 5.5% per year over the past 20 years, between 1994 and 2014. This is comparable with Canada’s average export growth over the same period (5.5%). The UK had the highest export growth amongst the G7 in 5 of the past 20 years, and was in the top half of G7 range in 10 of the past 20 years. Figure 2 also shows that UK exports fell the least in 2009, by 8.8%, representing the smallest fall in export growth among the G7.

Figure 2: Exports of goods and services, value in national currency, 1994 to 2014

Figure 2: Exports of goods and services, value in national currency, 1994 to 2014
Source: Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Total exports of goods and services of G7 countries in national currency, calculated by ONS using OECD data. UK export data for 2014 was subject to revision by ONS but may not yet be reflected in the published OECD data.

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The range of G7 growth rates widened considerably between 2012 and 2014, indicating improved trade activity across the G7. However, since 2012, UK export growth has been relatively low in the G7 range; UK exports fell by 2.2% in 2014, the only country in the G7 to see negative export growth. This was 7.7 percentage points below its longer-term average of 5.5% growth (1994 to 2014).

(iv) Detailed commentary

This section of the statistical bulletin consists of the following parts:

Trade in goods

1. Value of UK trade in goods

2. Trade in goods – analysis by area

3. Trade in goods – geographical analysis

4. Volume of total trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics

5. Export and import prices for trade in goods (not seasonally adjusted)

6. Trade in oil

Trade in services

7. Trade in services analysis

Other information

8. Where to find information about UK trade statistics

9. Revisions to trade statistics

10. Accuracy of the statistics

11. Other quality information

12. Records sheet

1. Value of UK trade in goods

Monthly commentary

In October 2015, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods was £11.8 billion, widening by £3.0 billion from September 2015.

Exports decreased by £0.7 billion (2.9%) to £23.5 billion in October 2015 from £24.2 billion in September 2015. In detail:

  • chemicals fell by £0.8 billion (16.7%) to £4.1 billion

  • miscellaneous manufactures fell by £0.2 billion (4.1%) to £3.5 billion

Imports increased by £2.3 billion (7.0%) to £35.4 billion in October 2015 from £33.0 billion in September 2015. In detail:

  • oil rose by £0.5 billion (22.4%) to £2.7 billion, specifically crude oil which increased by £0.5 billion (66.5%) to £1.3 billion

  • total manufactures rose by £1.7 billion (6.6%) to a record high of £27.3 billion, specifically chemicals, which increased by £0.5 billion (12.9%) to a record high of £4.7 billion

  • finished manufactures rose by £1.1 billion (6.3%) to a record high of £19.1 billion, specifically road vehicles which increased by £0.3 billion (7.9%) to a record high of £4.6 billion

3 monthly commentary

In the 3 months to October 2015, the deficit on trade in goods was £31.6 billion, widening by £2.5 billion from the 3 months to July 2015.

Exports decreased by £1.6 billion (2.3%) to £71.2 billion in the 3 months to October 2015 compared with £72.8 billion in the 3 months to July 2015. In detail:

  • oil fell by £1.7 billion (27.9%) to £4.5 billion. Crude oil decreased by £1.1 billion (34.5%) to £2.2 billion and refined oil fell by £0.6 billion (20.6%) to £2.3 billion

  • the decrease was partially offset by an increase in the export of cars, which rose by £0.8 billion (12.4%) to a record high of £6.9 billion

Imports increased by £0.9 billion (0.9%) to £102.8 billion in the 3 months to October 2015 compared with £101.9 billion in the 3 months to July 2015. In detail:

  • machinery and transport equipment rose by £1.3 billion (2.6%) to £38.3 billion, specifically cars, which increased by £0.5 billion and reached a record high of £8.3 billion

  • the increase was partially offset by a fall in oil imports, down £0.7 billion (8.5%) to £7.2 billion

At the main commodity level, the data are shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Change in UK main commodity value, October 2015

Monthly change1 3-monthly change2
  Exports (£m) Imports (£m) Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on "trade in oil") +104 +492 -1740 -670
Cars -13 +122 +766 +535
Consumer goods other than cars -173 +273 +265 +363
Intermediate goods -49 +312 -332 +111
Capital goods +49 +280 +320 +475
Chemicals -823 +538 +164 +205
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals  +29 +11 -9 -277

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Monthly change is October 2015 compared with September 2015.

  2. 3-monthly change is August to October 2015 compared with May to July 2015.

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Figure 3: Value of UK trade in goods, October 2013 to October 2015

Figure 3: Value of UK trade in goods, October 2013 to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 4: Value of UK trade in goods excluding oil, October 2013 to October 2015

Figure 4: Value of UK trade in goods excluding oil, October 2013 to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Revisions

There are revisions to trade in goods data from January 2014 (please see section 9 for further information).

Where to find data about UK trade in goods

The overall trade in goods figures are available in Table 1 and commodity figures are available in Tables 8, 9 and 10 of the excel version of the tables (346.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

2. Trade in goods – analysis by area

In October 2015, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries widened by £1.0 billion to a record high of £8.1 billion. The deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries widened by £2.0 billion to £3.7 billion (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Balance of UK trade in goods - EU and non-EU countries, October 2013 to October 2015

Figure 5: Balance of UK trade in goods - EU and non-EU countries, October 2013 to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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In the 3 months to October 2015, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries widened by £0.9 billion to £22.3 billion. Over the same period, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries widened by £1.6 billion to £9.3 billion.

EU analysis

Between September 2015 and October 2015, exports to the EU increased by £0.2 billion (1.4%) to £11.4 billion. This was attributed to increases in exports to the Netherlands of £0.2 billion and to France of £0.1 billion. These increases were offset by a decrease in exports to Germany of £0.2 billion.

Between September 2015 and October 2015, imports from the EU increased by £1.2 billion (6.4%) to a record high of £19.5 billion. This was attributed to increases in imports from Germany of £0.6 billion and from France, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Sweden, all of £0.1 billion.

Between the 3 months to July 2015 and the 3 months to October 2015, exports to the EU increased by £0.1 billion (0.3%) to £34.1 billion. This was attributed to increases in exports to Belgium and Luxembourg (combined) and the Irish Republic, each of £0.2 billion. These increases were offset by a decrease in exports to Germany of £0.3 billion.

Between the 3 months to July 2015 and the 3 months to October 2015, imports from the EU increased by £1.0 billion (1.9%) to £56.4 billion. This was attributed to increases in imports from Germany of £0.4 billion and Spain of £0.3 billion.

At the commodity level, the data are shown in Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3: Change in UK main commodity value (EU), October 2015

Monthly change1 3-monthly change2
  Exports (£m) Imports (£m) Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on "trade in oil") +53 +1 -1155 -196
Cars +2 +114 +579 +492
Consumer goods other than cars +6 +106 +19 +79
Intermediate goods -11 +315 -98 +327
Capital goods +7 +139 +344 +148
Chemicals -99 +292 +261 +137
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals  +65 +64 -20 +21

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Monthly change is October 2015 compared with September 2015.

  2. 3-monthly change is August to October 2015 compared with May to July 2015.

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Non-EU analysis

Between September 2015 and October 2015, exports to non-EU countries decreased by £0.9 billion (6.6%) to £12.1 billion. This was attributed to decreases in exports to Switzerland of £0.5 billion, the USA of £0.3 billion and both India and South Korea of £0.1 billion. These decreases were offset by an increase in exports to Saudi Arabia of £0.2 billion and to both Japan and Norway of £0.1 billion.

Between September 2015 and October 2015, imports from non-EU countries increased by £1.2 billion (7.8%) to £15.9 billion. This was attributed to increases in imports from both Norway and Switzerland of £0.2 billion, and from Canada, China, India, Japan, Nigeria, Russia and Saudi Arabia, all of £0.1 billion.

Between the 3 months to July 2015 and the 3 months to October 2015, exports to non-EU countries decreased by £1.8 billion (4.5%) to £37.0 billion. This was attributed to decreases in exports to China of £1.1 billion and to Saudi Arabia of £0.3 billion. These decreases were offset by an increase in exports to the USA of £0.4 billion.

Between the 3 months to July 2015 and the 3 months to October 2015, imports from non-EU countries decreased by £0.1 billion (0.3%) to £46.3 billion. This was attributed to decreases in imports from the USA of £0.5 billion and from Canada of £0.3 billion. These decreases were offset by an increase in imports from China of £0.7 billion and from Switzerland of £0.3 billion.

Table 4: Change in UK main commodity value (non-EU), October 2015

Monthly change 1 3-monthly change 2
  Exports (£m) Imports (£m) Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') +51 +491 -585 -474
Cars -15 +8 +187 +43
Consumer goods other than cars -179 +167 +246 +284
Intermediate goods -38 -3 -234 -216
Capital goods +42 +141 -24 +327
Chemicals -724 +246 -97 +68
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals  -36 -53 +11 -298

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Monthly change is October 2015 compared with September 2015.

  2. 3-monthly change is August to October 2015 compared with May to July 2015.

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Where to find data about UK trade in goods – analysis by area

The overall trade in goods by area figures are available in Table 2 and value of trade in goods with selected EU and non-EU trading partner figures are available in Tables 11 and 12 of the excel version of the tables (346.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

3. Trade in goods – geographical analysis

Monthly analysis

The USA remains the UK’s top export partner with exports of £3.9 billion in October 2015, decreasing by £0.3 billion when compared with September 2015. Anecdotal evidence suggests this decrease was due to a fall in the export of chemicals.

Germany remains the UK’s top import partner with record high imports of £5.6 billion, increasing by £0.6 billion when compared with September 2015. There were also record high imports from Spain, increasing by £0.1 billion to £1.3 billion.

Table 5: Change in UK monthly trade with significant partner countries, October 2015 compared with August 2015

    Exports (£m)     Imports (£m)
    October 2015 value 1-Month change     October 2015 value 1-Month change
1 USA           3,937 -330 1 Germany 5,636 +560
2 Germany 2,321 -165 2 China 3,248 +57
3 France 1,619 +100 3 USA 2,828 +26
4 Netherlands 1,604 +153 4 Netherlands 2,634 +128
5 Irish Republic 1,465 0 5 France 2,020 +80
6 Belgium and Luxembourg 1,045 -11 6 Belgium and Luxembourg 1,816 +28
7 China 968 -37 7 Italy 1,333 +34
8 Spain 765 -1 8 Spain 1,323 +82
9 Italy 727 +38 9 Norway 1,235 +187
10 Switzerland 417 -514 10 Irish Republic 1,152 +37

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets and import sources 2014 (see attached Table 14).

  2. USA includes Puerto Rico.

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Figure 6: Significant UK partner countries, 1-month balances, October 2015

Figure 6: Significant UK partner countries, 1-month balances, October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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3 monthly analysis

In the 3 months to October 2015, the USA remained the UK’s top export partner with exports of £12.2 billion, increasing by £0.4 billion when compared with the 3 months to July 2015. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is due to an increase in the exports of chemicals and motor vehicles.

In the 3 months to October 2015, there were record imports from Germany, increasing by £0.4 billion to £15.8 billion, from the Czech Republic, increasing by £0.1 billion to £1.3 billion and from Slovakia, increasing by £0.1 billion to £0.6 billion.

Table 6: Change in UK 3-monthly trade with significant partner countries, August to October 2015 compared with May to July 2015

  Exports (£m)   Imports (£m)
    August to October 2015 value 3-month change     August to October 2015 Value 3-month change
1 USA                          12,233 +375 1 Germany                15,842 +405
2 Germany                  7,417 -314 2 China                  9,710 +744
3 Netherlands                  4,621 +51 3 USA                  8,523 -529
4 France                  4,592 -82 4 Netherlands                  7,703 -109
5 Irish Republic                  4,370 +203 5 France                  5,966 +149
6 Belgium and Luxembourg                  3,156 +243 6 Belgium and Luxembourg                  5,442 -156
7 China                  2,780 -1127 7 Italy                  3,897 -120
8 Spain                  2,285 -7 8 Spain                  3,795 +315
9 Italy                  2,177 +22 9 Irish Republic                  3,315 +177
10 Switzerland                  1,803 -62 10 Norway                  3,299 +229

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets and import sources 2014 (see attached Table 14).

  2. USA includes Puerto Rico.

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Figure 7: Significant UK partner countries, 3-monthly balances, August to October 2015

Figure 7: Significant UK partner countries, 3-monthly balances, August to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Where to find data about UK trade in goods – geographical analysis

The overall trade in goods by area figures are available in Table 2 and value of trade in goods with selected EU and non-EU trading partner figures are available in Tables 11 and 12 of the excel version of the tables (346.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

4. Volume of total trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics

Between September 2015 and October 2015, the volume of exports decreased by 4.8%:

  • semi-manufactured goods fell 11.6%, specifically chemicals which saw a decrease of 17.5%

  • this was offset by food, beverages and tobacco which rose 1.9% and basic materials which rose 3.6%

Between September 2015 and October 2015, the volume of imports increased by 6.7%:

  • basic materials rose 13.9%

  • finished manufactured goods rose 7.9%, specifically cars which saw an increase of 11.5%

  • semi-manufactured goods rose 5.9%, specifically chemicals which saw an increase of 10.6%

In the 3 months to October 2015, the volume of exports increased by 1.9% when compared with the 3 months to July 2015:

  • finished manufactured goods rose 0.3%, specifically cars which saw an increase of 12.9%

In the 3 months to October 2015, the volume of imports increased by 1.6% when compared with the 3 months to July 2015:

  • finished manufactured goods rose 2.0%, specifically cars which saw an increase of 4.0%

  • this was offset by basic materials which fell 8.7%

At the commodity level, the data are shown in Table 7.

Table 7: Change in UK main commodity volume, October 2015 compared with September 2015

Monthly change1 3-monthly change2
  Exports percentage change Imports percentage change Exports percentage change Imports percentage change
Food, beverages and tobacco +1.9 +1.9 +0.6 +2.2
Basic materials +3.6 +13.9 0.0 -8.7
Semi-manufactured goods; of which -11.6 +5.9 +1.6 +0.6
   Chemicals -17.5 +10.6 +0.3 +0.9
Finished manufactured goods; of which 0.9 +7.9 +0.3 +2.0
   Cars -1.6 +11.5 +12.9 +4.0
   Consumer goods other than cars -7.7 +6.5 +3.7 +1.8
   Intermediate goods -1.0 +7.7 -3.2 +0.3
   Capital goods +2.0 +7.0 +2.7 +2.6

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Monthly change is October 2015 compared with September 2015.

  2. 3-monthly change is August to October 2015 compared with May to July 2015.

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Where to find data about volume of total trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics

The volume of total trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics figures are available in Table 3 of the excel version of the tables (346.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

5. Export and import prices for trade in goods (not seasonally adjusted)

In October 2015, compared with September 2015, export prices decreased by 0.2% and import prices decreased by 0.7%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices decreased by 0.4% and import prices decreased by 1.0%.

In the 3 months to October 2015, when compared with the 3 months to July 2015, export prices decreased by 1.6% and import prices decreased by 1.0%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices increased by 0.1% and import prices increased by 0.3%.

Figure 8: UK trade in goods export and import prices, October 2013 to October 2015

Figure 8: UK trade in goods export and import prices, October 2013 to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Where to find data about export and import prices for trade in goods (not seasonally adjusted)

The export and import prices for trade in goods (not seasonally adjusted) figures are available in Table 3 of the excel version of the tables (346.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

6. Trade in oil

In October 2015, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £1.1 billion compared with a deficit of £0.7 billion in September 2015. Oil exports increased by £0.1 billion to £1.6 billion and oil imports increased by £0.5 billion to £2.7 billion.

In the 3 months to October 2015, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £2.7 billion, widening by £1.1 billion when compared with the 3 months to July 2015. Oil exports decreased by £1.7 billion to £4.5 billion and oil imports decreased by £0.7 billion to £7.2 billion.

Figure 9: Balance of UK trade in oil, October 2013 to October 2015

Figure 9: Balance of UK trade in oil, October 2013 to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Where to find data about trade in oil

The trade in oil figures are available in Tables 1 and 7 of the excel version of the tables (346.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

7. Trade in services

In October 2015, the UK’s estimated surplus on trade in services was £7.7 billion.

Exports in October 2015 were estimated to have been £18.6 billion and imports £11.0 billion.

Figure 10: Value of UK trade in services, October 2013 to October 2015

Figure 10: Value of UK trade in services, October 2013 to October 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Information on trade in services is mainly obtained from quarterly surveys, in some cases underpinned by larger annual surveys. This means that the data for the latest months are uncertain.

In quarter 3 (July to September) 2015, the surplus on trade in services was £23.2 billion; financial services remains the largest contributor to this surplus at £9.5 billion.

In quarter 3 (July to September) 2015, exports of services fell by £0.2 billion to £56.0 billion. For the same period, import of services fell by £0.5 billion to £32.8 billion. The main contributor to this decrease was other business services (£1.6 billion), offset by an increase in financial services (£1.1 billion).

In this release, a country breakdown for trade in services is not available. However, a country breakdown up to quarter 2 (April to June) 2015 can be found in the United Kingdom Economic Accounts and the Quarterly National Accounts publications.

In volume terms, over the annual period quarter 3 (July to September) 2014 to quarter 3 (July to September) 2015, exports of services increased by £1.4 billion. Within exports, the largest increases were seen in components of financial services, with decreases attributed to travel services. Imports also increased by £1.3 billion, reflecting increases in other business services.

Between quarter 2 (April to June) 2015 and quarter 3 (July to September) 2015, exports of services were broadly unchanged, with a decrease in travel services being offset by increases in other business services. Over the same period, imports decreased by £0.6 billion reflecting decreases in travel services.

Figure 11: Trade in services exports, chained volume measure, UK, 2014 to 2015

Figure 11: Trade in services exports, chained volume measure, UK, 2014 to 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Q1 refers to quarter 1 (January to March), Q2 refers to quarter 2 (April to June), Q3 refers to quarter 3 (July to September) and Q4 refers to quarter 4 (October to December).

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Figure 12: Revisions to growth for trade in goods volume estimates, UK, 2014 to 2015

Figure 12: Revisions to growth for trade in goods volume estimates, UK, 2014 to 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Q1 refers to quarter 1 (January to March), Q2 refers to quarter 2 (April to June), Q3 refers to quarter 3 (July to September) and Q4 refers to quarter 4 (October to December).

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Revisions

Revisions to quarter 3 (July to September) 2015 mainly reflect updated estimates from our International Passenger Survey. Exports saw minimal change for all monthly periods and imports were revised up in September 2015 by £0.2 billion.

Where to find data about trade in services

The trade in services figures are available in Table 1 CONT. of the excel version of the tables (346.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

8. Where to find more information about UK trade statistics

Other regularly published UK trade releases

Supplementary quarterly data analysed by industry according to the Classification of Product by Activity (08) (UK trade in goods by classification of product by activity) are also available.

The complete run of data in the tables of this statistical bulletin are also available to view and download in other electronic formats free of charge using our time series data website service. Users can download the complete statistical bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own selections of individual series.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) publish Overseas Trade Statistics on the same day as we release the UK Trade data each month. These aggregate estimates will differ slightly from those that are published by us as part of the Balance of Payments (BoP), as the 2 sets of data are compiled to different sets of rules. The BoP publication shows a high level picture of UK trade in goods, whereas the OTS publication shows a detailed picture of the UK’s trade in goods by commodity and partner country.

Our website

There is a UK trade webpage which is now live where you can find more information.

Recently published reports on UK trade topics

On 30 October 2015 we published the annual Balance of Payments Pink Book 2015 which as well as containing more detailed information on trade also provided an overview of the trade deficit in relation to the current account deficit.

In our Economic Review published on 3 October 2015 there is further commentary on UK export performance.

On 1 October 2015, we published an article on the economic performance of the UK’s motor vehicle manufacturing industry.

Historic articles published on UK trade

On 26 June 2015, we published a short story on the importance of EU to UK trade and investment.

On 9 June 2015, we published a short story on the importance of China to the UK economy, including the value of the UK trade with China.

On 6 February 2015, we published an article on the Rotterdam effect and its potential impact on the UK trade in goods estimates.

On 23 January 2015, we published a short story exploring the reasons behind the UK trade deficit.

Published ad hoc data and analysis

Additional statistical data and analyses for UK Trade statistics that have not been included in our standard publications are available under the Economy section of the Published ad hoc data and analysis pages on our website.

Methodological articles

Detailed methodological notes are published in the UK Balance of Payments - The Pink Book, 2015.

9. Revisions to trade statistics

Trade in goods revisions

Data in this release have been revised from January 2014. The normal revision table is included in the UK Trade reference tables (Table 17R showing revisions to the main aggregates since the last UK Trade statistical bulletin of 6 November 2015) but additional information is provided below given the substantial revisions to trade in goods in volume terms.

Trade in goods at current prices

Revisions to current price estimates from January 2014 mainly reflect updated balance of payments adjustments (including smuggling estimates and other conceptual adjustments) as well as the impact of revised seasonal factors due to updated source data (mainly HM Revenue & Customs trade statistics) in 2015. For 2014 the balance of trade in goods has been revised upward (that is, narrowing the deficit) by £0.5 billion, with exports and imports revised downwards by £1.7 billion and £2.2 billion respectively. Fuels saw the largest individual commodity revision as imports were revised downward by £1.3 billion in 2014.

For 2015, quarter 2 (April to June) 2015 had the largest revisions. Exports of goods were revised down by £1.5 billion; affecting both the EU and non-EU similarly. Imports of goods were revised down by £1.2 billion, mainly within imports from EU countries.

Trade in goods in volume terms

We previously highlighted quality concerns surrounding the volume estimates of trade in goods; as planned the volume data has been revised for quarter 1 (January to March) 2014. This has introduced large revisions to exports and imports in volumes terms especially for quarter 1 (January to March) 2015 and quarter 2 (April to June) 2015, although the trade story has not changed; there is still a narrowing of the trade in goods deficit in quarter 2 (April to June) 2015. This narrowing now reflects both a rise in exports and a decrease in imports, whereas previously it was attributed to a fall in imports. The latest estimates are more in line with the current price movements.

Figure 13 shows the revisions to the quarter on quarter growth to exports and imports of goods in volume terms. Revisions in the latest quarter, quarter 3 (July to September) 2015 have dampened the growth of imports and now show a contraction in exports.

Figure 13: Revisions to growth for trade in goods volume estimates, UK, 2014 to 2015

Figure 13: Revisions to growth for trade in goods volume estimates, UK, 2014 to 2015
Source: Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Please click on the image to view a larger version.

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Trade in services revisions

In this release, periods from July 2015 are open for revision.

The National accounts revision policy (41.6 Kb Pdf) can be found on our website.

10. Accuracy of the statistics

Accuracy: Trade in goods figures for the most recent months are provisional and subject to revision in the light of:

  • late trader data, revisions to trade prices and revised estimates of trading associated with VAT MTIC fraud

  • revisions to seasonal adjustment factors which are re-estimated every month

Trade in services estimates have been derived from a number of monthly and quarterly sources. For components where no monthly data are available, estimates have been derived on the basis of recent trends. The results should be used with appropriate caution, as they are likely to be less reliable than those for trade in goods.

Reliability: Revisions to data provide one indication of its reliability. Table 8 shows summary information on the size and direction of the revisions that have been made to the data covering a 5-year period. A statistical test has been applied to the average revision to find out if it is statistically significantly different from zero. An asterisk (*) shows that the test is significant.

Table 8: Revisions analysis, UK trade, October 2015

£ million
Revisions between first publication and estimates 12 months later
  Value in latest period Average over the last 5 years (mean revision) Average over the last 5 years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
Total trade exports (IKBH) 42,181  954 977*
Total trade imports (IKBI) 46,321  735  779
Total trade balance (IKBJ) -4,140  211  711

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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11. Other quality information

UK trade re-assessment

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK Trade on 14 November 2014. The Authority's re-assessment of UK Trade against the Code of Practice for Official Statistics has been completed.

One of the recommendations of the re-assessment was to consult with users on the use of UK Trade statistics. The results of this user engagement survey can be found on our website.

HMRC methodology change for gas and revisions to past years

HMRC Trade Statistics are amending the mechanism for the data source used in the compilation of Natural Gas traded with non-EU partners. We will implement these revisions in a phased approach. More details can be found on our website.

EMU enlargement

As of 1 January 2015, Lithuania joined the European Monetary Union (EMU). Therefore the EMU totals in this UK Trade release include Lithuania.

EMU coverage

The coverage of EMU countries was extended to cover Cyprus and Malta from October 2008, Slovakia from January 2009, Estonia from January 2011, Latvia from January 2014 and Lithuania from January 2015. Some EU and non-EU breakdowns of commodity data for chained volume measures which are available on request may be less reliable than the current price data. Please consult Katherine Kent on +44 (0)1633 455829 if you are considering using them.

Data have been combined for the United States and Puerto Rico and for Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah (the United Arab Emirates) from January 2009 onwards. Estimates are separately available for the United States and Dubai up to the end of 2008 on request.

Erratics

Non-monetary gold is now included in the erratics series; along with ships, aircraft, precious stones and silver. In compliance with the BPM6 changes, non-monetary gold which is held as a store of wealth is now recorded within trade in goods.

Deflation

It is common for the value of a group of financial transactions to be measured in several time periods. The values measured will include both the change in the volume sold and the effect of the change of prices over that year. Deflation is the process whereby the effect of price change is removed from a set of values.

Chain-linked indices (chained volume measures), which are indexed to form the volume series in this bulletin, differ from fixed base indices in that the growth from one year to the next is estimated by weighting the components using the contribution to value of trade in the immediately preceding year (effectively re-basing every year). This series of annually re-weighted annual growths is then “chain-linked” to produce a continuous series.

The implied price deflators, derived by comparing current price data to chained volume measures data are not the same as the price indices published in this statistical bulletin, because the former are current weighted while the latter are base (2012) weighted.

Changes in trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud mean that comparisons of volume and prices (both including and excluding trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud) should be treated with a great deal of caution.

Interpreting the data

In months where quarterly and 3 monthly ending percentage changes for index data coincide, there may be small differences between the data for methodological reasons. Quarterly data are the indexed form of an underlying constant price (for volume indices) or consistent quantity (for price indices) series. 3 month ending data are the average of the index data in that period.

Seasonal adjustment

Seasonal adjustment aims to remove effects associated with the time of the year or the arrangement of the calendar so that movements within a time series may be more easily interpreted.

12. Records sheet

The UK trade record information for October 2015 (35.5 Kb Excel sheet) can be accessed on our website.

Background notes

  1. This month’s release

    Sections have been added on International comparisons, strengths and weaknesses and analysis on revisions.

    The QMI (Quality and Methodological Information) (283.9 Kb Pdf) has been updated for 2015.

  2. Special events

    An article outlining the ONS policy on special events is available on our website.

  3. Code of Practice for Official Statistics

    National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2015.

  4. Summary quality report

    A summary quality report (283.9 Kb Pdf) for this statistical bulletin and associated data can be found on our website.

  5. Publication policy

    A list of the organisations given pre-publication access to the contents of this bulletin can be found on our website.

  6. Follow us on Twitter and receive up to date information about our statistical releases.

  7. Like us on Facebook to receive our updates in your newsfeed and to post comments on our page.

  8. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Katherine Kent +44 (0)1633 455829 UK Trade/Trade and Transfers trade@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.