California export trade picks up steam in February

Published: Thursday, Apr. 3, 2014 - 10:07 am

After stumbling a bit out of the gate to start 2014, California export trade hit its stride in February.

In-state businesses shipped merchandise valued at $13.76 billion in February, a surge of 8.3 percent from $12.7 billion in February 2013, according to an analysis of Thursday’s U.S. Commerce Department figures by Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

“After a languid January, California’s export trade accelerated back to the sprightly growth rates we saw all through the second half of last year,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser.

January exports totaled $12.87 billion, which was up just 2 percent from $12.61 billion in January 2013. California shipped merchandise valued at a one-year record of $168.13 billion in 2013.

Beacon said the Golden State’s year-over-year gains were driven by manufactured exports, which surged nearly 8 percent to $9.02 billion.

State exports of non-manufactured goods – chiefly agricultural produce and raw materials – in February totaled slightly more than $1.85 billion, up almost 13 percent from $1.66 billion in February 2013. Re-exports grew by 7.1 percent to $2.86 billion from $2.67 billion.

Beacon said California's merchandise exports during the December-February period totaled $41.23 billion, an increase of 6.4 percent over the same period a year earlier. In the three-month span, computer/electronics products were by far the largest category of shipments, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the state’s merchandise exports, at $10.19 billion.

In the December-February period, Beacon also noted that state exports of transportation equipment increased by 19.7 percent year-over-year to $4.51 billion, largely driven by shipments of aerospace equipment to Canada, Japan, Taiwan and Kuwait.

Mexico remained California’s No. 1 export market in the measured three-month period, with shipments valued at $5.8 billion. Exports to Canada totaled $4.54 billion. China was the state’s No. 3 market at $4.12 billion.

Beacon projected continued strength in state export trade over the next several months.

“Although we are fully cognizant of the challenges affecting merchandise trade worldwide, our confidence in the resourcefulness of California’s exporters remains undiminished,” O’Connell said.

On the import side, California took in $27.39 billion in February, down 1 percent from $27.67 billion in February 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 grew nearly 8 percent from January to February to $42.3 billion. The Commerce Department said the deficit climbed to its highest level in five months.

U.S. exports of goods and services slipped 1.1 percent month-to-month to $190.4 billion as sales of commercial aircraft, computers and farm goods declined. Imports edged up 0.4 percent to $232.7 billion, which officials said reflected gains in imports of autos and clothing.

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

Read more articles by Mark Glover

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