In 2015 Russia Recorded a Trade Surplus of Nearly $150 Billion

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Tue, Feb 2, 2016
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On foot of my note covering Russian preliminary estimates for external trade, some readers asked if the figures provided (see here: Link) were indeed in Rubles. The answer is no - these are US Dollar amounts at the exchange rate posted time of data release (so preliminary figures are subject to change due to exchange rates effects as well as data updates).

As with all national statistics everywhere, Russian data has better coverage of goods trade, than services trade. Services trade generally lags goods trade in terms of reporting for a range of reasons that are reflected in all countries accounts. While we have only estimates for services trade through November 2015, we have actual figures for goods trade through the same period. These are reported by the Central Bank of Russia and provided below.

For 11 months (January-November) of each year, Russian exports of goods (only) fell from USD459.381 billion in 2014 to USD311.934 billion in 2015 - a decline of 32.1% y/y and a drop of 34.9% on comparable figure in 2012. Meanwhile, imports of goods (only) fell from USD283.541 billion in 2014 to USD176.652 billion in 2015 -a decline of 37.7% y/y and a drop of 41.9% on 2012 levels.

As the result, Trade Balance (goods only) for 11 months of 2015 fell from USD175.84 billion to USD135.582 billion - down 23.1% y/y. The Trade Balance (for 11 months cumulative) was down 22.8% on 2012 levels.

We can, with some stretch of imagination, extrapolate 11 months figures to full year. To do this, we adjust the figures for seasonality (December imputed weighting in trade volumes across both exports and imports).

If we do so, full year exports of goods for Russia come in at around USD342.9 billion down 31.1% y/y, while imports come in at USD194.32 billion, down 36.9% y/y. Trade balance for the full year 2015 (goods only) comes in at around USD147.6 billion, down 22.2% y/y, making 2015 the lowest trade surplus year (goods only) since 2010 when trade balance stood at just under USD147.0 billion.

Charts to illustrate the dynamics based on imputed full year values (note: horizontal lines are period averages):

For what it is worth, it might be interesting to make a comparative between 2015 levels of external trade and pre-2000 era. Average exports of goods in 1994-1999 were USD79.4 billion and 2015 levels were 4.3 times higher. Average imports of goods in 1994-1999 were USD58.45 billion and these rose 3.3 times in 2015 figures. As the result, average 1994-1999 trade balance was USD20.95 billion. 2015 trade balance was 7 times larger than that.

Not too shabby numbers, event though 2015 was a tough year of trade for Russian exporters.



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