July 4, 2013

California exports down 4.5% in May

Amid reports of increasingly wobbly economies overseas, California export trade tripped up a bit in May.

Amid reports of increasingly wobbly economies overseas, California export trade tripped up a bit in May.

California businesses shipped merchandise valued at $13.25 billion in May, down about 4.5 percent from $13.88 billion in May 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.

May exports ran slightly ahead of the $13.07 billion reported in April. However, Beacon said that represented a 1.9 percent monthly decline on a seasonally adjusted basis.

State exports of manufactured items fell from $9.18 billion in May last year to $8.56 billion this year.

Year over year, exports of non-manufactured goods (chiefly agricultural produce and raw materials) rose from $1.7 billion to $1.78 billion, but re-exports declined from $3 billion to $2.91 billion.

Year-to-date, California exports totaled $66.7 billion, just a tick below the $66.79 billion through five months of 2012. Global economists cited economic red flags around the world, particularly in Europe, but California shipments have held up there.

"Curiously, while Europe's tribulations are clearly hampering economic growth in China and other export-dependent economies in Asia, California's merchandise exports to the European Union have actually been up a full 10 percent in the past three months," said Jock O'Connell, Beacon's international trade adviser.

Beacon noted that a nearly yearlong trend of decreased personal computer component exports out of California has cut into the Golden State's bottom line.

"Surging worldwide consumer demand for smartphones and tablets has led to a dramatic restructuring of global supply chains in the electronics components sector," O'Connell said. "I'm afraid this shakeout has yet to run its course."

On the import side, California took in $32.29 billion in May, up about 0.25 percent from $32.21 billion in May 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 widened from $40.1 billion in April to $45 billion in May, a spike of about 12 percent and the highest level in six months.

The Commerce Department also cited sluggish overseas economies, and sales of American farm products dropped to their lowest level in two years. Decreased shipments of wheat, soybeans and corn helped drag down the value of U.S. ag shipments to $9.8 billion.

Meanwhile, exports of U.S.-made autos and auto parts set a record of $13.1 billion.

Overall, exports of U.S. goods and services slipped 0.3 percent between April and May to $187.1 billion.

Imports rose 1.9 percent to $232.1 billion, boosted by a record $26 billion of incoming shipments of foreign-made autos and auto parts.

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

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