May surplus surprises analysts, firms crown

SLOVAKIA's balance of trade recorded its first surplus for three years in May, driven by a 31 percent increase in export sales, according to data released by the country's Statistics Office (SÚ) on June 30.
The surplus of Sk1.9 billion (€45.7 million) brought Slovakia's trade deficit for the first five months of 2003 to Sk10.7 billion (€257 million), a year-on-year decrease of 70 percent. Analysts had previously predicted a May trade deficit of between Sk5.5 billion and Sk8.1 billion (€132 million and €195 million).
"The published May figures are indeed stunning when we consider the fact that growth in exports was stimulated by sales to EU countries that are showing weak economic growth," said Vladimír Zlacký, head economist at VÚB bank, to the daily Hospodárske noviny.

SLOVAKIA's balance of trade recorded its first surplus for three years in May, driven by a 31 percent increase in export sales, according to data released by the country's Statistics Office (SÚ) on June 30.

The surplus of Sk1.9 billion (€45.7 million) brought Slovakia's trade deficit for the first five months of 2003 to Sk10.7 billion (€257 million), a year-on-year decrease of 70 percent. Analysts had previously predicted a May trade deficit of between Sk5.5 billion and Sk8.1 billion (€132 million and €195 million).

"The published May figures are indeed stunning when we consider the fact that growth in exports was stimulated by sales to EU countries that are showing weak economic growth," said Vladimír Zlacký, head economist at VÚB bank, to the daily Hospodárske noviny.

Exports from Slovakia to EU countries rose by 25.3 percent over the first five months of 2003, according to SÚ data, while imports from the union over the same period grew by 11.3 percent. Slovakia presently sends nearly 63 percent of its exports to EU-member states, while just over 50 percent of imports come from the EU.

Overall, Slovak exports in May were up 31.4 percent year-on-year, while imports grew by only 5.6 percent. For the first five months of the year, exports stood at Sk305.1 billion (€7.3 billion), a 22 percent year-on-year increase, while imports reached Sk315.8 billion (€7.6 billion), up 10.6 percent year-on-year.

"The trade surplus is, first of all, the result of an acceleration in exports in main economic sectors," said Ľudová banka analyst Mário Blaščák to the TASR news agency, adding that an increased share of imports were for production technology, which will eventually lead to higher export figures.

While Slovak exports increased in all categories monitored by the SÚ, the growth was strongest in the export of transport vehicles, which reached a monthly record of Sk21 billion (€505 million).

According to Tatra banka analyst Elizej Macho, the three strongest export branches - transport facilities, machinery and equipment, and metals - represented 61.7 percent of total export sales in May, and will grow in importance as the sectors develop.

"Future investments into these branches are expected to further increase their total share of overall exports," said Macho.

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