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Hungary foreign trade drop slows in Q1

Hungary posted a €619 million trade surplus in the first quarter, including a €503 million surplus in March, both up €10 million from preliminary figures, the Central Statistics Office (KSH) said in a second reading on Thursday. Exports and imports continued to drop in March but the twelve-month fall slowed - both in euro and in volume terms - for the first time since the decline started in October.

The trade surplus for both Q1 and March more than doubled from €282 million in Q1 and €214 million in March a year earlier.

March exports fell 18.1% to €5,178 billion and imports dropped 23.5% to €4,675 billion, practically unchanged from the preliminary figures. The year-on-year drops slowed after falls of 29.7% and 32.9% for exports and imports, respectively, in February.

The drops in volume terms were smaller, reflecting some deterioration in the terms of trade, as March export volume fell 12.5% and import volume dropped 18.7%. The volume drops were 25.4% and 28.4% for exports and imports, respectively, in February.

The rates of decline slowed both in euro and volume terms from February, and drops were the smallest since December. Hungary's exports have dropped every month since October.

Q1 exports fell 21.8% yr/yr in volume terms and 26.3%in euro terms to €13.848 billion. Q1 imports of €13.229 billion were down 24.7% in volume terms and fell 28.5% in euro terms.

Terms of trade worsened slightly in Q1 as forint-term export prices rose 7.1% and import prices climbed 7.5% from a year earlier. The forint weakened 13.5% against the euro and softened more than 30% against the dollar during the period. In foreign currency terms, export prices fell 8% and import prices fell 7%.

In 2008 both Hungary's exports and imports rose 5.6% in euro terms. In volume terms, exports rose 3.4% and imports rose 3.3% last year.

Q1 export volume of the machinery and transport equipment sector dropped 28% and imports fell 29%. Within the sector, exports of vehicles and engines fell 30% and imports slipped more than 40%. In the telecommunications segment, exports volume slid 24%, mainly because of a drop in deliveries to countries outside of the EU.

Q1 exports of manufactured goods fell 15% in volume terms and imports were down 18%. Exports of pharmaceutical companies dropped 10% and imports fell 18%.

Hungary's energy import volume was down 30% in Q1, as crude oil and oil product imports slipped 31% because of a 33% drop in prices, while gas imports volume fell 37%, while prices rose 76%.

Food, drink and tobacco exports rose 10% in volume terms in Q1, but imports dropped 10%. Exports grew because of a 45% increase in grain exports, parallel with a 23% fall in grain and grain product prices. Imports of fruit and vegetables as well as sugar fell more than the average, but imports of livestock as well as meat and meat products rose.

Export volumes to EU countries fell 18% in Q1 and imports volume from the EU dropped 24%. Exports to the EU-15 fell 19% and imports from these countries were down 26%. Exports to new member states slid 18% and imports dropped 17%.

Exports to countries outside of the EU dropped 34% in volume terms and imports were down 27%. Hungary's trade deficit with Asian countries narrowed €410 million to €1.67 billion. (MTI-ECONEWS)