Category Archives: Russian imports

16/5/15: Russian Trade in Goods: 1Q 2015

Per BOFIT latest data, exports of Russian gas were down 10% y/y in 2014 with total of 175bn cubic meters (bcm) of gas exported. exports to Ukraine were down 44% to 15bcm, to Europe and Turkey down 9% to 126bcm. Russian LNG exports stood at around 14bcm in 2014, virtually unchanged on 2013.

Meanwhile, the latest figures for external trade, covering 1Q 2015 show exports of goods down 28% y/y (predominantly due to price effects - ruble devaluation and lower prices charged). Volume of exports actually rose across several categories, including crude oil (+13% y/y in volume), petroleum products (+24% y/y in volume), as well as exports of copper, fertilisers and grain. Share of oil and gas in overall exports remained largely unchanged at around 2/3rds.

Biggest volume of exports went to the EU, as usual, although value of exports shipped to the EU fell by roughly 1/3rd. Overall, EU received about 1.2 of Russian goods exports with APEC taking 20%.

On imports side, the opposite holds: APEC became the largest supplier of goods to the Russian market as imports from the EU dropped 44% y/y in 1Q 2015 more sharply than the overall imports decline of 37% y/y. Imports from China fell by 1/3rd, but China remained the largest single supplier to the Russian markets with 20% share of overall Russian imports of goods.

Ireland's bilateral trade in goods with Russia also suffered in 1Q 2015. Per latest CSO data, released this week, Irish merchandise exports to Russia totalled EUR78mln in 1Q 2015 against EUR157mln in 1Q 2014 - a 50% drop y/y. Irish merchandise imports from Russia totalled EUR52mln over the 1Q 2015, down only 1.6% y/y. As the result, trade balance (merchandise trade only) has deteriorated significantly: in 1Q 2015, Irish trade surplus vis-a-vis Russia stood at EUR104mln, this has now declined to EUR26mln (a drop of 75% y/y).

It is worth noting that in 2008-2009, Irish merchandise exports to Russia declined 30% y/y over 1Q-4Q period.

8/4/15: Ruble’s Gains Are Convincing, But Risks Remain

Three charts:

Russian car sales
Source: @moved_average 

Down 42.5% y/y in March (estimated 43% decline).

Ruble v Dollar is going up and up:

Source: @Schuldensuehner 

Ruble v Euro is also up and up...

Source: @Schuldensuehner 

Linking all three? The myth of Ruble liquidity squeeze (e.g. here and here). Reality: sharp drop in imports, slight improvement in oil prices (and more importantly stabilisation of the trend to the upside) and improving conditions in the domestic banking sector are all driving ruble value up.

Another strong contributing factor is timing of external debt redemptions:

These are now past their 2015 peaks.

All positive, but uncertainty remains and is still extremely high, so I would not be surprised if ruble starts posting some losses in and around the end of Q2.

26/3/15: Russian imports outlook 2015-2016

Per BOFIT, Russian imports "will react strongly in 2015, partly dragged down by the economic contraction" and in part by weaker ruble and continued counter-sanctions. Import volumes adjust sharply during Russian recessions: in 2009 imports volumes fell 30% as GDP contracted by 8%. However, current Ruble is in a weaker position than in 2009: "the real exchange rate of the rouble has now depreciated much more than in 2009: it is a quarter weaker than the average rate for 2014. Russia’s income on exports, which dropped by a third in 2009, will deteriorate under the forecast oil price assumption[USD55 pb], by almost a quarter in 2015."

All of this means that Russian "imports will have to adjust to the smaller export income even more than usual [more than in 2009], since it would be difficult to fund a current account deficit in the present situation." It is worth noting that Russian economy does not run current account deficits to smooth out volatility in imports. "The current account last posted a deficit for a short period only, during the crisis of 1998."

Which means that BOFIT projects sharper decline in imports this time around: "import volumes are estimated to fall by a fifth in 2015. [On top of already sharp contraction in 2014]. The decline in imports will level off after 2015 as the economic contraction eases. In addition, the rouble’s real exchange rate will strengthen, since inflation is considerably faster in Russia than in its trading partners (the difference has grown to over 10%). In the absence of shocks which would lead to capital outflows, the rouble’s nominal exchange rate is expected to remain fairly stable, because net capital outflows stemming from e.g. repayment of foreign debt by non-financial corporations and banks will not necessarily exceed the surplus on the current account."

In other words, BOFIT does not expect an external funding crisis to be triggered by the debt redemptions.

"The current account will be bolstered by diminishing imports and a recovery in Russia’s export income resulting from rising oil prices. The recovery in export income will, in turn, create room for an increase in imports."

All of which is consistent with the Government policy: "the Russian Government has increased reactive manual steering in several areas ahead of the recession. Import controls have been intensified, e.g. by raising certain import duties and favouring domestic products in public procurement and also projects of state-owned enterprises. Capital outflows have been restricted by e.g. strengthening banking controls and issuing instructions to state-owned enterprises. Companies have been encouraged to apply targeted price controls, although this has not been widely used, as yet."

Exporters to Russia, especially from the EU, can expect some rough years ahead.