California exports gain momentum in March

Published: Tuesday, May. 6, 2014 - 9:48 am

California exports continued to roll up serious momentum to close out the first quarter after a shaky start to the year.

In-state businesses shipped merchandise valued at $15.43 billion in March, up a robust 9.6 percent from $14.07 billion in March 2013, 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.

February exports totaled $13.76 billion – up 8.3 percent from the previous year – coming on the heels of a comparatively soft export month of $12.87 billion in January.

“Our manufacturers, growers and trading companies continue to providence abundant evidence of the competitiveness of California’s economy in today’s global marketplace,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser. “After years of economic travail, the term ‘Golden State’ is starting to sound less and less ironic.”

California is coming off a record export year, shipping merchandise valued at $168.13 billion in 2013. Through the first quarter of this year, the state’s major export segments are showing the kind of early strength that could surpass last year.

Beacon said manufactured exports in March totaled $10.29 billion, up nearly 11.3 percent from $9.25 billion a year earlier. Exports of nonmanufactured goods – chiefly agricultural produce and raw materials – in March totaled $1.93 billion, up almost 8.5 percent from about $1.78 billion in March 2013. Re-exports grew by about 5.2 percent year over year, from $3.05 billion to $3.21 billion.

Through this year’s first quarter, Beacon said, the state’s export trade of $42.05 billion was running 6.8 percent ahead of the first three months of 2013. By contrast, overall U.S. merchandise exports rose by just 2.6 percent in the same period.

The breakdown of year-over-year quarterly gains is $27.57 billion for manufactured goods (up 6.2 percent), $5.49 billion for nonmanufactured goods (up 11.3 percent) and $8.99 billion for re-exports (up 6.2 percent).

Beacon’s outlook for the next few months was likewise positive.

“Our faith in the resourcefulness of California’s export community is undiminished,” O’Connell said. “Excepting for the usual laundry list of potential catastrophes, our forecast therefore remains buoyant.”

On the import side, California took in $30.35 billion in March, up 7.9 percent from $28.12 billion in March 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 declined 3.6 percent from February to March to $40.4 billion.

U.S. exports of goods and services rose 2.1 percent month-to-month to $193.9 billion, with exports to Canada and South Korea hitting all-time highs. Imports rose a modest 1.1 percent to $234.3 billion, with significant incoming shipments of mobile phones, clothing and other consumer goods.

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

Read more articles by Mark Glover

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