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UAE imports fall in July, hinting at weak demand

Imports dip 0.9 pct y/y in July vs +12.1 pct in June.

October 7, 2010 8:31 by

Imports to the United Arab Emirates fell in July, pointing to weak domestic demand, while non-oil export growth quickened with a recovery on key markets such as India.

The OPEC member’s imports fell 0.9 percent year-on-year to 39.5 billion dirhams ($10.8 billion) in July, a sharp slowdown after a 12.1 percent rise in the previous month, preliminary data from the UAE Federal Customs Authority showed.

Exports without crude jumped 23.7 percent to 6.6 billion, after a 19.7 percent increase in June, while growth in re-exports slowed to 10.3 percent.

“It’s no surprise to see the export sector doing well given the pick up in global trade this year and growth in regional markets that Dubai serves,” said Simon Williams, chief economist at HSBC Bank in Dubai.

“The soft import data is more of a worry and points to ongoing weakness in domestic demand,” he said.

In a Reuters poll last week, analysts raised their forecasts for UAE economic growth this year to 2.4 percent after state-owned Dubai World sealed a $24.9 billion deal, easing concerns about Dubai’s debt woes.

A purchasing managers’ survey also pointed to more favourable outlook this week, showing that business conditions for the UAE private manufacturing and services sector hit a 10-month high in September.

The customs authority did not release figures for oil exports. The UAE had not been publishing foreign trade figures on a regular monthly basis in the past.

Crude accounted for roughly 41 percent of the UAE overall exports in 2009.

Oil export income for the Abu Dhabi emirate dropped 11 percent to 313 billion dirhams in 2009, after jumping 39 percent in 2008. The UAE pumped less crude in 2009 as it stuck to OPEC curbs to counter the 2008 price fall.

Abu Dhabi accounts for almost all of the oil production of the world’s third largest crude exporter, while Dubai is a major trade hub in the Gulf Arab region with a nearly 81 percent share of the UAE non-oil trade.

The UAE booked a trade surplus of $16 billion last year with exports and imports down 15.8 percent and 11.9 percent respectively from 2008 as the global crisis hit the second-largest Arab economy.

The country expects the trade surplus for 2010 to be 15 percent higher.

Analysts polled by Reuters expected UAE’s current account surplus to hit 5.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2010, up from 3.2 percent last year.

(Reporting by Martina Fuchs and Martin Dokoupil; editing by Patrick

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