We know net trade made a positive contribution to growth in the first and second quarters of 2013 but not (dramatically) in the third. Today's trade figures siggest it will have done so in the final quarter of the year.
These were the details:
The deficit on trade in goods and services narrowed to £1 billion in December 2013, compared with a deficit of £3.6 billion in November 2013. There was a deficit of £7.7 billion on goods, partly offset by an estimated surplus of £6.7 billion on services.
This reflected an increase in exports of 2.1% and a drop in imports of 3.8%. Inevitably there is an erratic element in this. Exports were boosted by oil, chemicals and aircraft, while a drop in aircraft imports also helped narrow the gap. Trade in aircraft is famously volatile, as Harold Wilson discovered 44 years ago.
However, there were signs of an improved trend in the data. As the Office for National Statistics pointed out: "The goods deficit in countries outside the EU has narrowed in each of the last six months. Since July 2013 exports to countries outside the EU have increased 9.3% and imports have decreased 9.6%."
It may be a flash in the pan. But we can hope it is the first glimmer of export-led growth. More here.