Trade deficit widens in Nov. as imports rise

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Imports jump 10.4%, outpacing the 2.29% gain in exports

The country’s trade deficit ballooned to $13 billion in November — the highest since $13.08 billion in July 2015, and sharply wider than the $10.41 billion gap in October — as imports, including purchases of gold, outpaced exports of goods. The trade deficit in November 2015 was $10.47 billion.

For the third consecutive month, exports recorded a positive growth of 2.29 per cent year-on-year to $20 billion.

However, goods imports grew at a faster pace of 10.4 percent to $33.02 billion, according to the data released on Thursday by the Commerce Ministry.

Yellow metal

Gold imports jumped 23.2 per cent in November to $4.36 billion. The previous highest in value terms was $4.96 billion in August 2015. In October 2016, imports of the yellow metal had more than doubled to $3.5 billion.

In the wake of the withdrawal of high-denomination banknotes last month, there had been intense speculation that the government might impose curbs on imports and domestic holdings of gold.

Oil imports rose 5.9 per cent in November to $6.8 billion, while non-oil imports grew 11.7 per cent to $26.2 billion.

Exports experienced a protracted contraction between December 2014 and May 2016 amid persistent weak external demand, before recording 1.97 per cent growth in June.

However, the overseas shipment of goods again slipped back into negative growth territory in July and August before re-entering the positive growth zone in September with a 4.8 per cent increase.

Exports had registered an 8.22 per cent jump in October.

S.C. Ralhan, president of the country’s apex exporters’ body, the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said sentiment still remained low in the global market and factors like demonetisation and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates had added to the woes of exporters.

However, he added that it was reassuring that 20 out of 30 major product groups registered positive growth in November.

Iron-ore exports soared more than 11-fold to $189.7 million, while engineering goods grew 11.6 per cent to $4.96 billion and petroleum products exports went up by 3.37 per cent to $2.4 billion.

Non-petroleum exports in November grew 2.1 per cent to $17.6 billion.

Gems & jewellery

However, overseas sales of gems & jewellery contracted in the month by 12.8 per cent to $2.5 billion, while exports of ready-made garments shrank 2.93 per cent to $1.1 billion.

Mr. Ralhan said the major encouraging sign was that the overall exports during April-November 2016-17 turned positive with a growth of 0.1 per cent to $174.9 billion. India’s goods exports during the full fiscal year would be about $270-$280 billion, he added.