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California Exports Begin Year With A Bang

March 10, 2011—SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA—California’s exporters began 2011 by posting their highest export totals ever for the month of January, according to an analysis by Beacon Economics of foreign trade data released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department.

“California’s exporters firmly put the Great Recession behind them in January by racking up their fifteen consecutive month of strong, year-over-year growth in trade,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’ Economics' International Trade Adviser.

The state’s $ 11.75 billion merchandise export trade in January increased by 14.5% over the $10.26 billion in exports recorded last January. Manufactured exports were up by 11.6%, while non-manufactured exports (chiefly raw materials and agricultural products) were up by 18.9%.

On a somewhat less positive note, the Beacon Economics' analysis indicates that, while California accounts for 12.4% of U.S. residents, it contributed just 10.7% of America's export trade in January and only 9.6% of the nation's manufactured exports. By contrast, California accounted for 13.1% of the nation’s merchandise export trade as recently as January 2005.

“It isn't clear what is driving these trends as manufacturing in California overall seems to be doing better than the national average," said Beacon Economics Founding Partner Christopher Thornberg. "Indeed, manufacturing output in California rose from 10.2% of the economy in 2004 to 11.9% in 2009," he said. In the United States overall, output fell from 12.6% to 11.3% during the same period.

California’s seaports and airports remain vital gateways for international trade.

In Southern California, the number of loaded outbound containers from the neighboring Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was up by 12.6% from last January, while Los Angeles International saw an 18.2% increase in air freight export tonnage.

In the Bay Area, exported air freight tonnage through San Francisco International was up by 11.9% over last January, while outbound loaded container traffic across the Bay at the Port of Oakland rose by 7.6%.

The outlook for exports is for moderate export growth, according to the Beacon analysis.

“Although a generally weaker dollar helps by making California and other U.S. goods cheaper in foreign markets, austerity budgets in Europe coupled with anti-inflationary measures in China and other fast-growing economies may retard demand for imported products,” O’Connell explained. "Still, we're expecting exports to continue growing through the year."

Arguably the biggest wild card right now involves the price of fuel.

“Economies tend to go wobbly and global supply chains start experiencing serious palpitations whenever oil futures float much over the $100 a barrel mark," O'Connell warned.

For additional information on California's export trade in January 2011, go to www.beaconecon.com.