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Six of the seven export sectors post gains

Following a 6.2% gain in January, exports of industrial goods and materials grew 7.2% to $7.9 billion in February. Although the gains were broad-based, increased volumes of metals ores and higher prices of chemical, plastics and fertilizers accounted for almost three-quarters of the growth.

Metals ores grew 36.5% on the strength of nickel ores and copper ores while fertilizers and fertilizer materials, such as potash, led the 4.5% gain in exports of chemicals, plastics and fertilizers. Exports of fertilizers and fertilizer materials increased for a fifth consecutive month in February.

Exports of automotive products rose 5.0% to $4.5 billion, largely due to a 4.6% volume increase. Exports of passenger autos grew 9.4% as some manufacturers resumed production after extended plant shutdowns in January. In contrast, exports of motor vehicle parts declined 2.9%, after three consecutive months of increases.

Exports of energy products grew 0.8% to $8.7 billion, as prices rose 1.8%. Higher exports of crude petroleum were nearly offset by decreases in exports of natural gas as well as petroleum and coal products. Exports of crude petroleum increased 6.1% largely due to price increases. Natural gas exports decreased for the first time since May 2009, falling 7.6% as a result of reductions in volumes.

Energy products dampen the growth in imports

Imports of energy products, declining for the second consecutive month, fell 14.2% to $2.9 billion in February. Imports of crude petroleum decreased 18.1% as volumes fell 22.2%, largely reflecting production disruptions and maintenance at some refineries. Imports of coal and other related products declined 16.5% mainly due to lower imports of natural gas.

After two months of decreases, imports of machinery and equipment grew 3.3% to $8.7 billion. This represented the fourth increase in imports of machinery and equipment since the peak of November 2008. Widespread growth throughout the sector was led by industrial and agricultural machinery as well as other machinery and equipment.

Industrial and agricultural machinery increased 7.0% on the strength of excavating machinery, up 50.4%. Other machinery and equipment grew largely due to higher imports of communication equipment.

Imports of automotive products rose 3.5% to $6.0 billion, the highest value since October 2008. The gain was mainly due to a 3.1% increase in volumes. Imports of passenger autos grew 9.8% and were the main factor behind the growth in the sector. Imports of trucks and other motor vehicles advanced 3.7%, the fifth consecutive month of increases, reflecting the demand for large pick-up trucks.