It was an historic high for sales. An absolute record for the trade surplus as well. Italy's December exports have decisively raised the full year tally, bringing the progress of 2016 to 1.1%, a result that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago.
The monthly uptick (+5.7% year-on-year), according to Istat, is even a cautious calculation because using comparable workdays year-over-year, the increase would have been 8.5%.
Significant increases in strictly numerical terms but even more significant if you look at what makes it up—it's the result of a unified progress both in terms of sectors and geography.
The locomotive, as it was for all of 2016, was still, once again, Europe (+7.4%), even if the gap with the rest of the EU (+4.1) is finally starting to close.
Acquisitions were up across Europe, with a jump of 10.3% in Germany, our major export market, buttressed by increases in other nations like France, the U.K. and Spain.
Purchases by Berlin are particularly strong for Made in Italy engineering, with an 8 point increase in machine tools and a whopping 28 in metal products.
Add to that a jump in the auto sector, which posted sales of €2.7 billion on the year, almost half a billion up from the previous month. In terms of macro sectors, December showed some “light” with progress of more than 4 points for consumer goods, intermediate goods and capital equipment.
Among individual sectors, only a few were down and not by much. Compare that with double-digit growth in the chemical and auto sectors and strong progress for metals, food, rubber-plastic and machine tools.
For companies, the monthly increases translates to €2 billion in additional revenue, which brings the 2016 total for Made in Italy goods to a new record of €417 billion, up 1.1% from the previous year (+1.8% net of energy), a performance in line with Germany (+1.2%) and higher than France (-0.6%) and the U.K. (-11%).
A recovery in energy prices, while visible in the jump in the sector, doesn't change the overall trend which, thanks to the low price of oil, closed the year in slight retreat.
The result of divergent trends, with energy falling for the 12 months by 21.2% while, everywhere else, demand remains strong, in particular for capital goods (+7.5%), is a clear sign of a recovery in Italy's investment cycle. The synthesis of the two trends, divergent in global data, is producing a record commercial surplus, of €51.56 billion, that rises to €78 billion net of energy, a progress of nearly €10 billion from the 2015 data.
Both trade group Assocamerestero and the Economy Ministry are pleased, stressing the recovery in exports in a particularly difficult year for global trade and the Ministry confirmed, for the upcoming years an investment of €200 million to promote our goods.
Another record year, said Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda, “that shows Italy has a strong and vital industrial fabric. The challenge for the government is to bring more and more companies towards export and innovation.”
The new Made in Italy and Industry 4.0 plans, he added, are heading in precisely that direction.
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