Politics & Government

California exports surge to $15.35 billion in October

California export trade hit the gas pedal in October.

In-state businesses shipped merchandise valued at $15.35 billion, an all-time record for October and up a robust 10.7 percent from $13.87 billion in October 2012, according to an analysis of Wednesday’s U.S. Commerce Department figures by Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Exports totaled $13.78 billion in September this year.

Beacon said California’s autumn surge was led by a solid $727 million increase in manufactured exports, which rose nearly 8.2 percent to $9.66 billion from $8.93 billion in October 2012.

Meanwhile, exports of non-manufactured goods (chiefly agricultural produce and raw materials) totaled $2.35 billion, up $376 million, or about 19 percent, from $1.98 billion a year ago. Re-exports were up by $379 million, from $2.96 billion last year to $3.34 billion this year, an increase of 12.8 percent.

After a sluggish start, California’s year-to-date total of $138.31 billion in merchandise export trade is running ahead of the $135.01 billion recorded in the first 10 months of 2012. Merchandise exports during the August-October period totaled $43.41 billion, an increase of 8.5 percent over the same period in 2012.

“With the surge in California’s export trade in recent months, the state’s exporters ought to be feeling a pretty healthy endorphin rush,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser.

Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon, said the stars lined up nicely with key trading partners.

“Europe saw a modest positive uptick in the second and third quarter of this year, and the rest of the world economy seems to be gaining traction as well,” he said. “This shouldn’t imply that Europe’s problems are fixed, but at least the drag they were creating on global growth and trade is gone, and clearly this is good news for local exporters.”

Computer and electronics products remained the single largest category of California exports, accounting for $10.77 billion in shipments in the latest August-October period. Year-over-year exports of transportation equipment increased in that time by 19.1 percent, to $4.93 billion, largely powered by a spurt in exports from the aerospace sector.

Beacon said other sizable, year-over-year gains in the August-October period included farm produce, up 21.7 percent to $3.74 billion, and processed food products, up 20.8 percent, to $2.65 billion. Exports of petroleum products rose 27.8 percent to $1.71 billion.

Mexico remained California’s single largest export market during the August-October period, even though shipments were up by just 1.3 percent to $6.33 billion. Canada and China were in a virtual tie for second, with exports to each nation totaling about $5.11 billion.

Beacon said California currently accounts for 10.6 percent of all U.S. merchandise exports and projected similarly strong results for California exporters in the remaining two months of 2013.

“Although almost every major forecasting institution has been ratcheting back expectations for global economic growth, we continue to place our bets on the resourcefulness of California’s exporters,” O’Connell said.

On the import side, California took in $35.57 billion in October, up 3.6 percent from $34.34 billion in October 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 U.S. exports hit an all-time high in October, which helped pare the nation’s trade deficit to $40.6 billion, down about 5.5 percent from $43 billion in September.

Exports of goods and services rose 1.8 percent to a record $192.7 billion, boosted by a 6 percent monthly gain in petroleum exports. Imports rose 0.4 percent to $233.3 billion, the highest since March 2012.

Analysts noted that the nation is lessening its dependence on foreign oil. U.S. petroleum exports were up 9.3 percent in the first 10 months of this year, compared with the same period in 2012. Over the same period, petroleum imports were down 11.1 percent.