September another strong month for California export trade

Wobbly overseas economies failed to stall California export trade in September.

California businesses shipped merchandise valued at $13.78 billion in September, up 7 percent from $12.87 billion in September 2012, 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.

“Given the generally sclerotic state of much of the global economy these days, September’s numbers could almost be described as gravity-defying,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser.

Beacon said the gains California saw in September were led by a solid $380 million increase in manufactured exports, which rose by 4.6 percent year-over-year to $8.8 billion.

For months, decreased exports of computer equipment have been a drag on California’s bottom line. That trend has been called a byproduct of growing consumer preference for smartphones and tablets over personal computers.

However, Beacon said those declines were being offset in other areas. Beacon said the most recent three-month period saw significant year-over-year increases in exports of aerospace equipment (up 49.7 percent to $2.74 billion), communications gear (up 27.9 percent to $2.51 billion), fruits and tree nuts (up 25.5 percent to $2.22 billion) and petroleum products (up 38.1 percent to $2.03 billion).

And while exports of semiconductor and electric components were off 6.1 percent, they totaled $2.7 billion in the most recent quarter, while exports of scientific instruments rose slightly to $2.53 billion.

Meanwhile, state exports of non-manufactured goods (chiefly agricultural produce and raw materials) grew $260 million, or 17.2 percent, to $1.77 billion in the September-to-September period.

Through the first nine months of the year, California’s $122.96 billion merchandise export trade is running slightly ahead of the $121.14 billion recorded in the same period last year.

“California’s exporters continue to display remarkable resourcefulness in coping with adverse market conditions abroad,” O’Connell said. “Still, we can’t overlook the fact that several of our major trading partners are grasping for formulas for sustained growth.”

On the import side, California took in $32.91 billion in September, up 4.8 percent from $31.41 billion in September 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 Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit grew nearly 8 percent in September to $41.8 billion, up from $38.8 billion in August. The government said the U.S. deficit with China hit an all-time high of $30.5 billion.