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  • PRESS RELEASE

Euro area quarterly balance of payments and international investment position (first quarter of 2018)

4 July 2018

  • The current account of the euro area showed a surplus of €403.1 billion (3.6% of euro area GDP) in the four quarters to the first quarter of 2018.[1]
  • At the end of the first quarter of 2018 the international investment position of the euro area recorded net liabilities of €593 billion (5% of euro area GDP).

Current account

The current account of the euro area showed a surplus of €80.7 billion in the first quarter of 2018, compared with €64.2 billion in the same quarter of 2017 (see Table 1). The increase in the current account surplus was broad-based across all components but was mainly driven by larger surpluses for goods (from €63.0 billion to €74.2 billion) and services (from €16.0 billion to €20.9 billion).

The increase in the surplus for services resulted mainly from a decrease in the deficit for other business services (from €5.1 billion to €2.2 billion) and increases in the surpluses for Telecommunication, computer and information services (from €17.0 billion to €19.2 billion) and travel (from €5.1 billion to €6.2 billion). These improvements were partially compensated by a decrease in the surplus for Insurance, pension and financial services (from €5.1 billion to €3.7 billion).

The primary income surplus increased by €0.1 billion to €28.8 billion. This relative stability was reflected in its main component, where the surplus for investment income decreased from €21.6 billion to €21.5 billion. Within this component, a decrease in the deficit for portfolio investment income (from €9.5 billion to €5.9 billion) was compensated by a decrease in the surplus for direct investment income (from €28.9 billion to €25.3 billion).

In the four quarters to the first quarter of 2018 the current account of the euro area showed a surplus of €403.1 billion (3.6% of euro area GDP), compared with a surplus of €381.3 billion (3.5% of euro area GDP) a year earlier. The rise resulted from an increase in the surplus for services (from €44.9 billion to €106.6 billion), which was partially offset by decreases in the surpluses for primary income (from €113.0 billion to €86.1 billion) and goods (from €358.7 billion to €354.3 billion), as well as an increase in the deficit for secondary income (from €135.3 billion to €144.0 billion).

International investment position

At the end of the first quarter of 2018 the international investment position of the euro area recorded net liabilities of €593 billion vis-à-vis the rest of the world (5% of euro area GDP; see Chart 1). This represented a deterioration of €351 billion compared with the fourth quarter of 2017 (see Table 2).

This change resulted primarily from lower net assets for direct investment (€1,872 billion, down from €2,033 billion), but also from larger net liabilities for portfolio investment (€2,169 billion, up from €2,095 billion), other investment (€883 billion, up from €798 billion) and financial derivatives (€86 billion, up from €52 billion). Reserve assets increased by €3 billion to €673 billion.

The decline in the euro area’s net international investment position in the first quarter of 2018 was driven by other volume changes and net negative exchange rate and price changes that were only partially offset by net positive transactions (see Chart 2). In direct investment, the decline in net assets resulted mainly from a decrease on the asset side owing to negative exchange rate and price changes and large negative other volume changes owing to reclassifications and data enhancements in the first quarter of 2018. These changes were only partly compensated by net positive investments by euro area residents.

The decline observed in the net liability position for portfolio investment was due to larger liabilities combined with lower assets. While on the liability side negative price and exchange rate revaluations were more than compensated by net purchases of euro area securities by non-residents and other volume changes, on the asset side the net acquisition of foreign assets by euro area residents was more than offset by negative exchange rate and price revaluations.

At the end of the first quarter of 2018 the gross external debt of the euro area amounted to €13.8 trillion (123% of euro area GDP), which represents an increase of €244 billion compared with the fourth quarter of 2017, while net external debt increased by €91 billion over the same period.

Data revisions

This press release incorporates revisions to the data for all the reference periods between the first quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2017. The revisions to direct, portfolio and other investment are particularly sizeable for some quarters and reflect revisions to the national contributions to the euro area aggregates.

Additional information

Time series data: ECB’s Statistical Data Warehouse (SDW).

Methodological information Next press releases:
  • Monthly balance of payments: 20 July 2018 (reference data up to May 2018).
  • Quarterly balance of payments and international investment position: 2 October 2018 (reference data up to the second quarter of 2018).

Annexes

For media queries, please contact Philippe Rispal, tel.: +49 69 1344 5482.

  1. [1]All data are neither seasonally nor working day-adjusted. Ratios to GDP (including in the charts) refer to four-quarter sums of non-seasonally and non-working day-adjusted GDP figures.
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