California exports grow for 18 consecutive months

An uneven economic recovery at home and signs of slowing business growth abroad failed to slow California export trade this spring.

The value of California exports in April totaled $12.88 billion, up 14.4 percent from $11.26 billion in April last year, according to an analysis of Thursday's U.S. Commerce Department trade figures by Beacon Economics, a consultant with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

News also was good on a national basis, as a narrowing of the trade deficit boosted slumping economic markets.

For California, April marked the 18th consecutive month of year-over-year growth.

"On an inflation-adjusted basis, California's export trade in April nearly equaled the pre-recession high for that month achieved back in 2007," said Jock O'Connell, Beacon's international trade adviser.

Year-over-year, California's April exports were up across the board. Manufactured exports rose 10.7 percent, non-manufactured exports (chiefly raw materials and agricultural products) rose 21.3 percent and re-exports grew 22.4 percent.

Christopher Thornberg, Beacon's founding partner, viewed the April export numbers as a positive sign. "Exports are likely to play an important role in the economic boost we expect to see in the second half of this year," he said.

Still, O'Connell noted that some of California's top trading partners are showing signs of slowing. "The economic growth rates of several of our principal trading partners have been decelerating – in some cases, like China and India, from speeds that were plainly unsustainable over the long term," he said. "That's apt to shrink but certainly not stifle their appetite for imported goods."

O'Connell also predicted that California exporters should continue to enjoy the benefits of a dollar trading at some of the lowest levels in decades. A weaker dollar makes U.S. goods and services cheaper overseas.

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