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Press release

Euro area monthly balance of payments: March 2020

20 May 2020

  • In March 2020 the current account of the euro area recorded a surplus of €27 billion, compared with a surplus of €38 billion in February 2020.
  • In the 12-month period to March 2020, the current account recorded a surplus of €338 billion (2.8% of euro area GDP), compared with a surplus of €350 billion (3.0% of euro area GDP) in the 12 months to March 2019.
  • In the financial account, euro area residents made net acquisitions of foreign portfolio investment securities totalling €241 billion in the 12-month period to March 2020 (up from €81 billion in the 12 months to March 2019). Over the same period, non-residents made net acquisitions of euro area portfolio investment securities amounting to €334 billion (up from €3 billion).

Chart 1

Euro area current account balance

(EUR billions unless otherwise indicated; working day and seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

The current account of the euro area recorded a surplus of €27 billion in March 2020, a decrease of €11 billion from the previous month (see Chart 1 and Table 1). Surpluses were recorded for goods (€32 billion), services (€2 billion) and primary income (€2 billion). These were partly offset by a deficit for secondary income (€9 billion). Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the measures implemented to contain its spread, both exports and imports of goods and services decreased compared with February 2020 as did credit and debit flows in primary income.

Table 1

Current account of the euro area

(EUR billions unless otherwise indicated; transactions; working day and seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

Note: Discrepancies between totals and their components may be due to rounding.

Data for the current account of the euro area

In the 12 months to March 2020, the current account recorded a surplus of €338 billion (2.8% of euro area GDP), compared with a surplus of €350 billion (3.0% of euro area GDP) in the 12 months to March 2019. This decline was driven by a reduction in the surplus for services (from €115 billion to €61 billion) and for primary income (from €100 billion to €81 billion). These developments were partly offset by a larger surplus for goods (up from €295 billion to €339 billion) and a smaller deficit for secondary income (down from €160 billion to €143 billion).

Chart 2

Selected items of the euro area financial account

(EUR billions; 12-month cumulated data)

Source: ECB.

Notes: For assets, a positive (negative) number indicates net purchases (sales) of non-euro area instruments by euro area investors. For liabilities, a positive (negative) number indicates net sales (purchases) of euro area instruments by non-euro area investors.

In direct investment, euro area residents made net investments of €79 billion in non-euro area assets in the 12-month period to March 2020, following net disinvestments of €175 billion in the 12 months to March 2019 (see Chart 2 and Table 2). Non-residents made net investments in euro area assets of €102 billion in the 12-month period to March 2020, following net disinvestments of €303 billion in the 12 months to March 2019.

In portfolio investment, net purchases of foreign debt securities by euro area residents increased to €234 billion in the 12-month period to March 2020, following net purchases of €92 billion in the 12 months to March 2019. Over the same period euro area residents made net purchases of foreign equity of €7 billion, after net sales of €11 billion in the 12 months to March 2019. Non-residents made net purchases of euro area debt securities (€127 billion) in the 12 months to March 2020, after recording net sales of €88 billion in the 12 months to March 2019. Over the same period, non-residents’ net purchases of euro area equity rose to €208 billion from €91 billion.

Table 2

Financial account of the euro area

(EUR billions unless otherwise indicated; transactions; non-working day and non-seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

Notes: Decreases in assets and liabilities are shown with a minus sign. Net financial derivatives are reported under assets. “MFIs” stands for monetary financial institutions. Discrepancies between totals and their components may be due to rounding.

Data for the financial account of the euro area

In other investment, euro area residents’ net acquisitions of foreign assets increased to €579 billion in the 12 months to March 2020 (following €248 billion in the 12 months to March 2019), while their net incurrence of liabilities increased to €263 billion from €214 billion.

Chart 3

Monetary presentation of the balance of payments

(EUR billions; 12-month cumulated data)

Source: ECB.

Notes: MFI net external assets (enhanced) incorporates an adjustment to MFI net external assets (as reported in the consolidated MFI balance sheet items statistics) based on information on MFI long-term liabilities held by non-residents, available in b.o.p. statistics. B.o.p. transactions refer only to transactions of non-MFI residents of the euro area. Financial transactions are shown as liabilities net of assets. “Other” includes financial derivatives, other investment and statistical discrepancies.

The monetary presentation of the balance of payments (see Chart 3) shows that the net external assets (enhanced) of euro area MFIs increased by €282 billion in the 12-month period to March 2020. This increase was driven mainly by the euro area's current and capital accounts surplus and euro area non-MFIs’ net inflows in portfolio investment equity. This development was partially compensated by other flows, in particular other investment net outflows.

In March 2020 the Eurosystem’s stock of reserve assets increased to €866.3 billion, from €864.7 billion in the previous month (see Table 3). This increase was largely driven by net acquisitions of assets (€3.6 billion) which was partly offset by the effect of negative price changes (€2.1 billion).

Table 3

Reserve assets of the euro area

(EUR billions; amounts outstanding at the end of the period, flows during the period; non-working day and non-seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

Note: “Other reserve assets” comprises currency and deposits, securities, financial derivatives (net) and other claims.

Data for the reserve assets of the euro area

Data revisions

This press release incorporates revisions to the data for January and February 2020.These revisions did not significantly alter the figures previously published.

The production of monthly b.o.p. statistics has in most countries been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The lockdown measures implemented across the euro area have created challenges for the data collection and compilation process. In addition, the abrupt economic impact of these measures has caused particular difficulties for the estimation of infra-annual data. The forthcoming releases are therefore subject to higher uncertainty. More information on the potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis on b.o.p. statistics can be found here.

Next press releases:

  • monthly balance of payments: 19 June 2020 (reference data up to the April 2020)
  • quarterly balance of payments and international investment position: 3 July 2020 (reference data up to the first quarter of 2020)

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

Notes

  • Hyperlinks in this press release lead to data that may change with subsequent releases as a result of revisions.

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