Trade Figures Take New Pounding

By Dresser, Guy | The Birmingham Post (England), June 24, 1999 | Go to article overview

Trade Figures Take New Pounding


Dresser, Guy, The Birmingham Post (England)


The true cost of the strong pound was revealed in stark terms yesterday after official figures revealed Britain's worst current account trade deficit for almost four years.

The Office for National Statistics said the deficit on current account, which wraps investment flows together with the trade account, totalled pounds 1.8 billion in the first quarter of 1999.

The gap, though smaller than the pounds 2.3 billion deficit predicted by some economists, reflects the sharp appreciation of the pound against leading European currencies. Sterling rose in value against other major currencies nearly three years ago, heaping problems on manufacturers and exporters who found that almost overnight they were no longer competitive in world markets.

Exporters and economists warned at the time that the trade and current accounts would worsen, albeit with a long delay.

Now the bad news is pouring in, with the pound still strong against the euro despite interest rate cuts from the Bank of England in recent months which have brought rates down to five per cent.

The first quarter current account shortfall compared with a surplus of nearly pounds 1 billion in the fourth quarter.

The ONS also said the global goods trade deficit for April widened to pounds 2.2 billion from pounds 1.9 billion in March while the total trade surplus - which includes services - widened to pounds 1.4 billion from pounds 987 million in March. The first quarter deficit of pounds 4.6 billion, reported a month ago, was the worst for nine years.

The Government tried to shed some positive light on the figures, with Trade Minister Mr Brian Wilson preferring to highlight the improved level of trade with non-EU countries. …

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