N.H. exports close ’07 out with a bang

The latest snapshot for New Hampshire’s exporting companies shows that in the last month of 2007, foreign sales rose to an all-time high of $258.5 million, from $255.6 million in November.

December’s 1.1 percent rise at the tail end of 2007 followed an increase of 11.4 percent in the previous month.

Compared with international sales a year ago, exporters from the Granite State shipped abroad $32.2 million, or 14.2 percent, more goods in December 2007 than December 2006.

For all of 2007, exports of goods made in New Hampshire increased to a 21-year record of $2,910 million, from $2,811 million in 2006.

The state’s export performance translates to an annual growth in foreign sales of 3.5 percent for the entire year, compared to a national average of 12.3 percent in 2007. As a result, New Hampshire ranked 42nd among the 50 states in export growth in 2007.

The latest state export numbers reflected a mix of different economic conditions in the countries of New Hampshire’s foreign buyers and their preferences for various products from business equipment to consumer goods, parts and raw materials.

Exports of manufactured goods – a strong creator of local jobs – accounted for 82 percent of all sales abroad in December. Foreign sales from New Hampshire’s factories decreased in December by 5.7 percent from the previous month to $211.1 million, adjusted for seasonal variation.

Exports of non-manufactured goods soared by 49.3 percent in December to $47.3 million, also adjusted for seasonal variation. This group of shipments abroad consists of agricultural goods, mining products, and re-exports.

Forward-looking indicators signal that international economic conditions — vital to export-related jobs in New Hampshire — are expected to weaken through the rest of 2008.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose members include the world’s 30 richest countries, reported in February that the group’s composite leading economic indicator suggests that a slowdown in economic activity lies ahead in the OECD area.

In particular, OECD’s leading indicator for the most advanced countries in the world – which tracks economic conditions nine months in advance – fell in December for the seventh consecutive month. More important, the indicator’s annual growth rate – designed to provide early signals of changing directions in global economic activity between expansions and slowdowns – also declined in December.

Signs of a global slowdown were also evidenced in China and India, the two fast growing non-OECD member countries. According to the OECD report, the leading indicator for China was down in December 2007 and stood lower than a year ago. Although the leading indicator for India rose in November 2007 – the latest available reading of the index – it was lower than in November 2006.

These new numbers confirm the general view that global economic expansion will slow down in 2008. New Hampshire’s companies doing business abroad should see a moderation in export orders, which will translate into slower production activity, a restraint in profits and fewer jobs.

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