N.H. exporters set a global pace in 2004

With solid gains in foreign demand for locally made goods at the tail end of the year, state exports were much stronger overall during 2004 than in recent years.

Foreign sales of goods from New Hampshire’s companies, adjusted for seasonal variation, rose $3.9 million, or 2 percent, in December to $202.1 million, following a dip of 0.9 percent in November.

Comparing with international shipments a year ago, exporters from the Granite State sold abroad in December 2004 $18.2 million, or 9.9 percent, more goods than in December of 2003. December’s reading was the third-highest monthly level since July 2001.

For the full 2004 calendar year, state exports increased by $350 million from 2003 to $2.3 billion. Last year’s sales abroad are the result of the undergoing improvement in global economic conditions and the fall in the value of the dollar. A weaker currency makes locally produced goods less expensive, and consequently more competitive in international markets.

Demand for manufactured goods drove overall sales from New Hampshire’s exporting companies. Last December, foreign shipments from state factories accounted for 80 percent of all sales abroad.

Exports of manufactured goods rose in December by 3.3 percent from the previous month to $161.7 million, adjusted for seasonal variation. At last December’s mark, exports of manufactured goods were $6.8 million, or 4.4 percent, higher than in December of 2003.

Was 2004 a good year for state manufacturers doing business abroad and, consequently, factory jobs tied to exports? For all of 2004, exports of made-in-New Hampshire goods surged by 17.6 percent from 2003 to $1.9 billion. For the nation, exports of manufactured goods rose 11.3 percent to their highest annual level on record.

Exports of non-manufactured goods went down 2.9 percent in December to $40.5 million, also adjusted for seasonal variation. This group of shipments abroad consists of agricultural goods, mining products and re-exports, which are foreign goods that entered the state as imports and are exported in substantially the same condition as when imported.

The state’s export performance translates to an annual growth rate in foreign sales of 18.1 percent for the entire 2004, compared to a gain of 3.7 percent in 2003. As a result, New Hampshire ranked 15th among the 50 states in export growth in 2004.

All told, U.S. exports of goods rose by 13.2 percent during 2004, about three times faster than in 2003, hitting the highest annual level on record. For the world’s major 23 industrial countries, the combined volume of their exports is estimated to have jumped by 15.6 percent in 2004.

This means New Hampshire exporters outperformed all industrial countries in export growth during 2004.

Forward-looking indicators signal that the international economic outlook — vital to export-related jobs in New Hampshire — is expected to improve over the next three quarters.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a highly-respected Paris-based think tank whose members include the world’s 30 richest countries, reported in February that the group’s most recent composite leading economic indicator shows improved performance.

In particular, OECD’s early warning indicator for the most advanced countries in the world – which tracks economic conditions nine months in advance – rose again in December. More important, the indicator’s annual growth rate – designed to provide early signals of changing directions in global economic activity between expansions and slowdowns – accelerated for a second month in a row.

These new numbers confirm the general view that the global economic expansion will continue in 2005.

Evangelos Simos, chief economist of the consulting and research firm Infometrica Inc., is editor of international affairs for the Journal of Business Forecasting and professor and department chair at the University of New Hampshire. He may be reached at eosimos@infometrica.com. Distributed by Infometrica Inc.

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