The surplus of external trade in goods was EUR 398 million in the month of December, the Central Statistical Office (KSH) said in a first reading of data on Friday. In euro terms, exports increased by 2.7% and imports grew by 5.4% in December 2018, compared to the same month of the previous year.
In absolute terms, exports amounted to EUR 7.669 billion in December, while imports totaled EUR 7.271 bln. The surplus was down by EUR 173 mln compared to December 2017.
The share of European Union Member States was 80% in exports and 74% in imports.
For the full year 2018, exports were up 4.3% annually to EUR 105.059 bln, while imports rose 6.9% to EUR 99.018 bln. The trade surplus for the year as a whole thus amounted to EUR 6.041 bln, narrowing by EUR 2.037 bln compared to 2017.
The KSH will publish a second, more detailed reading of the December and 2018 full-year data on March 4.
Analysts interviewed by state news wire MTI said they expect the foreign trade surplus to fall slightly further this year due to the bleaker external outlook and strong domestic demand from consumption and investments. The surplus could start growing again next year with the addition of new production capacities and a relative slowdown in consumption growth, they added.
Gergely Suppan of TakarékBank noted that export growth was also slowed last year by one-off factors such as the introduction of the worldwide harmonized light vehicles test procedure (WLTP). He predicted the surplus could fall slightly to EUR 5.97 bln this year.
Orsolya Nyeste of Erste Bank forecast a trade surplus of EUR 4-4.5 bln in 2019, adding that she sees the surplus growing again in 2020.