News Column

Calif. Exports Rise, But Not When Adjusted for Inflation

June 5, 2013

Depending on how you look at it, California exports in April did slightly better, or slightly worse, than last year.

California businesses shipped merchandise valued at $13.07 billion in April, up 0.3 percent from $13.03 billion in April 2012, according to an analysis of Tuesday's U.S. Commerce Department figures by Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Adjusted for inflation, however, Beacon said the 2013 figure represented an annual decline of 0.9 percent.

California exports totaled $14.07 billion in March.

Results in key export segments stayed fairly stable year over year.

California's April exports of manufactured items slipped slightly from $8.49 billion in April last year to $8.48 billion this year. Exports of non-manufactured goods (chiefly agricultural produce and raw materials) totaled $1.52 billion in April, down from $1.59 billion in 2012.

Re-exports rose from $2.95 billion last year to about $3.07 billion this year.

Beacon continued to point to declining shipments of electronic components used in the manufacture of personal computers.

In the most recent three-month period (February-April 2013), Beacon said exports of those items were down 23.4 percent, compared with the same period last year.

"The surging popularity of smartphones and tablets has been dramatically reshaping global supply chains in the electronics components sector," said Jock O'Connell, Beacon's international trade adviser. "This is a trend we have been observing since late last summer, and it has yet to run its course."

Despite highly publicized economic problems in European nations, Beacon said California exports to the eurozone were up a robust 9.8 percent in the past three months, and shipments to the European Union increased by 8.4 percent.

Year-to-date, California's export trade totaled $52.44 billion, down from $52.91 billion last year.

On the import side, California took in $30.43 billion in April, down 1.7 percent from $30.97 billion in April last year. Some goods entering California go to other states, so exports are considered a more accurate measure of the state's trade health.

Nationally, the U.S. trade deficit widened 8.5 percent to $40.3 billion in April. The Commerce Department said American demand for foreign cars, cellphones and other imported goods outpaced U.S. export growth.

Exports of U.S. goods and services increased 1.2 percent between March and April to $187.4 billion, the second-highest on record.

However, imports grew 2.4 percent to $227.7 billion.

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(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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