California exports were up, not down, in February

Published: Saturday, Apr. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B

Looking at California exports in February, what was down was actually up, according to trade experts.

Beacon Economics, breaking out state figures from Friday's national trade numbers from the U.S. Commerce Department, said California businesses shipped merchandise valued at $12.7 billion in February, down about 1.1 percent from $12.85 billion in February 2012.

However, analysts were quick to point out that there were 29 days in February 2012.

Adjusting for that extra leap year day and inflation, Beacon said the 2013 real-world totals actually come out 1.1 percent ahead of last year.

"Last February saw exporters benefit from the Sadie Hawkins Day Bump," said Jock O'Connell, Beacon's international trade adviser. "This February, Sadie sat out the dance."

February's relatively strong showing was driven by a 4.3 percent rise in shipments of manufactured goods and a 5.9 percent rise in exports of non-manufactured goods (chiefly agricultural commodities and raw materials).

However, there was a 9.6 percent year-over-year falloff in re-exported goods.

Also, O'Connell pointed to continued declines in shipments of personal computer components to key trade partners, a byproduct of the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets.

Beacon also noted that, despite Europe's various fiscal woes, California exports to the European Union were up 3.9 percent from December 2012 to February 2013, compared with the same period a year ago. Exports to Pacific Rim nations rose just 2.2 percent during that time.

Airborne shipments accounted for 44.3 percent of all state exports. Another 34 percent traveled by sea, and the remaining 21.7 percent was transported overland to Mexico and Canada.

On the import side, California took in $27.67 billion in February, up nearly 3.8 percent from $26.66 billion in February last year, not adjusting for inflation.

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 narrowed from $44.4 billion to $43 billion from January to February.

Exports of U.S. goods and services rose 0.8 percent to $186 billion, close to the record high set in December. Commerce Department officials cited robust shipments of energy products and autos.

Imports were virtually unchanged month-to-month at about $229 billion. Government officials said imported crude oil fell to its lowest level in 17 years.

Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

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