Monday, December 17, 2012

Greece & Latvia

Today Eusostat published trade statistics, which showed that the monthly euro area trade balance in October continued to strengthen about €10 billion compared to a year earlier.

Perhaps more interesting than that was that the fastest goods export growth in the January-September period was recorded in Latvia (+14%) and Greece (´12%). Latvia and Greece are opposites when it comes to GDP growth, Latvia having the highest at more than 5% while Greece had the biggest decline in GDP of nearly 7%. There are two reasons why strong growth in the export of goods have lifted Latvia but not Greece.

One is that Greece had very little goods exports to begin with, being the equivalent of only about 10% of GDP last year, while Latvia's goods exports was nearly 40% of GDP, meaning that the Greek 12% gain only represents a boost of 1.2% of GDP while the Latvian 14% gain reprresented a boost that was the equivalent of about 5.5% of GDP.

Partly as a result of this domestic demand has fallen sharply in Greece, more than offsetting the gain in exports while the big increase in export revenues have helped boost domestic demand as well in Latvia. Greece have of course long been notoriously bad at exporting goods, relying instead on tourism revenues and loans from foreigners to finance their imports. Now that the second source of financing is drying up as foreigners understandably don't want to lend to the Greeks any more, Greeks have been forced to reduce their imports, which is why Greece at the same time as they had the second biggest increase in exports also had the by far biggest drop in imports, falling by 13% compared to a year earlier. As its imports were far bigger than its exports, this played a much bigger role in reducing the Greek deficit in goods. Altogether, the deficit declined by the a sum equal to roughly 4% of GDP, the equivalent of a decline in the U.S. trade deficit by more than $600 billion.