Exports, trade surplus highest since December; imports highest since June.
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The value of US ag exports rose to $10.655 billion in February while ag imports were valued at $9.558 billion for a trade surplus of 1.097 billion, according to USDA monthly trade data update.
The value of exports rose 5.6%, pushing it to the highest level since $11.228 billion in December, while imports rose just 0.5%, putting them at the highest mark since June when they were at $9.891 billion. Similarly, the export surplus rose 85% and is the highest since December.
So far in Fiscal 2016, the value of exports stands at $57.016 billion while imports are at $46.468 billion for a cumulative trade surplus of $10.548 billion.
The key that is keeping the US ag values performing better than expected is that despite the value of ag exports being down nearly 15% so far in Fiscal 2016 compared to year-ago, imports have risen just 0.6%. While the ag trade surplus is down nearly 49%, that's still far better than it could be at this stage.
The lower-than-expected import total comes in spite of a US dollar that makes imports more attractive. That could reflect a US economy that still is performing at a so-so pace.
Comments: The ag trade situation was sort of "signaled" by the general data released this morning which showed a larger than expected overall US trade deficit for February. But the rise in exports outpaced the rise in imports in February on a total basis in large part due to higher US ag export values. And with prices at current levels, that means volume increases had to have been seen compared to January levels. While the near-49% decline in the US ag trade surplus is sizable, it still is putting things in far better shape than USDA forecast in January. The Ag Dept.'s current forecast for the ag trade surplus is $6.5 billion, meaning that forecast will now likely be raised, most likely via a reduction in the forecast value for imports of $118.5 billion. The ag export forecast of $125 billion seems reachable, but that will take exports running at around $9.7 billion for the remainder of Fiscal 2016 while imports will have to be more than $10.3 billion to hit the forecast mark, meaning an average monthly trade deficit of around $600 million.