The UK current account recorded a deficit of £8.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, down from a revised deficit of £10.5 billion (originally published as a deficit of £15.2 billion) in the previous quarter. The fourth quarter deficit is equivalent to 2.2 per cent of GDP.
The current account deficit narrowed as:
• the trade deficit decreased by £1.7 billion to £7.1 billion
• the income surplus increased by £0.6 billion to £4.6 billion
• this was partially offset as the deficit on current transfers increased by £0.2 billion to £6.0 billion
In 2011, there was a current account deficit of £29.0 billion, compared with a deficit of £48.6 billion in 2010. The 2011 deficit is equivalent to 1.9 per cent of GDP.
The current account balance plus the capital account balance measures the extent to which the UK is a net lender (that is, in surplus) or net borrower (that is, in deficit). The UK has run a current and capital account deficit in every year since 1997 and every quarter since the third quarter of 1998. In the latest full year, 2011, the UK was a net borrower of £25.4 billion, down from £44.9 billion in 2010. This was as a result of an increased income surplus, combined with an increased trade in services surplus, the largest on record.
The increase in the income surplus in 2011 was driven by an increase in the direct investment income surplus, as income receipts increased by more than income payments. Receipts increased primarily due to the foreign subsidiaries of UK banks returning to profits after recording losses in 2010, and increased profits by the foreign subsidiaries of UK other financial intermediaries.
Both exports and imports of services were at a record high in 2011, but as exports grew by more than imports, this led to an increase in the trade in services surplus. This was mainly due to the increase of exports of financial and other business services.
In the latest quarter, the fourth quarter of 2011, the UK was a net borrower of £7.6 billion, down from £9.4 billion in the previous quarter. This was due to a decrease in the trade in goods deficit, combined with an increase in the income surplus.
The reduction in the trade in goods deficit was primarily driven by an increase in exports of finished manufactured goods and a reduction in the imports of semi-manufactured goods. The increase in the income surplus was driven by a larger fall in direct investment payments, as non-resident owned UK banks recorded losses, than in direct investment receipts.
The current account deficit equates to 2.2 per cent of GDP at current market prices in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with 2.8 per cent in the previous quarter. The deficit on trade in goods and services is equivalent to 1.9 per cent of GDP in the latest quarter, compared with 2.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2011. The surplus on income equates to 1.2 per cent of GDP in the latest quarter, compared with 1.1 per cent in the previous quarter.
A deficit of £12.0 billion was recorded with the EU in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with a deficit of £12.2 billion in the previous quarter. This decrease in the deficit was due to reductions in the deficits on income, on trade in goods, and on current transfers, which were partially offset by a fall in the surplus on trade in services. The current account with non-EU countries showed a surplus of £3.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. This was due to a reduction in the deficit on trade in goods, partially offset by an increase in the deficit on current transfers together with a fall in the surplus on income.
A deficit of £41.2 billion was recorded with the EU in 2011, compared with a deficit of £47.6 billion in 2010. There was a surplus of £12.2 billion with non-EU countries in 2011, following a deficit of £1.0 billion in the previous year.
The trade in goods deficit in the fourth quarter of 2011 was £24.2 billion, compared with £27.6 billion in the previous quarter. Exports rose by £3.0 billion while imports fell by £0.4 billion.
The deficit in semi-manufactured goods narrowed by £1.5 billion to a deficit of £1.8 billion, driven by higher exports of chemicals and lower imports of material manufactures and chemicals. The deficit in finished manufactured goods narrowed by £1.2 billion to £11.9 billion, driven by higher exports of intermediate goods and capital goods and lower imports of cars, other transport equipment and aircraft.
The deficit on trade in goods was £99.7 billion in 2011, the highest on record, compared with £98.5 billion in the previous year. The deficit on oil widened by £6.4 billion to £11.2 billion in 2011, while the deficit in other fuels widened by £2.5 billion to £7.5 billion. The deficit on trade in semi-manufactured goods widened by £1.9 billion to £10.1 billion in 2011. However, the deficit on finished manufactured goods narrowed by £9.5 billion to £50.4 billion.
The trade in services surplus was £17.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, a decrease of £1.7 billion from the previous quarter. Exports decreased by £1.6 billion to a level of £46.4 billion, driven by a £2.6 billion decrease in financial services. The level of imports was little changed at £29.2 billion. The decrease in the trade in services surplus was driven by a decrease of £2.5 billion in the financial services surplus. This fall was moderated by the insurance services surplus, which widened by £0.5 billion.
The surplus for trade in services was £71.9 billion in 2011, an increase of £10.1 billion compared with 2010. Exports increased by £13.0 billion between 2010 and 2011, while imports increased by £3.0 billion over the same period. The increase in exports was mainly in financial services and other business services. The increase in imports was mainly in financial services and transportation services.
The income surplus increased from £4.0 billion in the third quarter of 2011 to £4.6 billion in the latest quarter. The increase was driven by income payments (debits) falling by more than income receipts (credits). In terms of functional categories, the increase was driven by a £1.1 billion increase in the direct investment surplus partially offset by a £0.6 billion increase to the portfolio investment deficit.
The deficit on compensation of employees was £0.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, little changed from the previous quarter.
The surplus on direct investment income was £13.0 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. The increased surplus was driven by payments falling by less than receipts. Receipts were £22.5 billion in the latest period, £1.0 billion lower than in the third quarter of 2011. This fall was mainly due to a reduction in earnings abroad by UK monetary financial institutions and insurance companies. Payments fell by £2.2 billion in the latest quarter to £9.5 billion. This decrease was mainly due to a switch to losses from profits by foreign-owned UK monetary financial institutions.
Portfolio investment income recorded a deficit of £5.0 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, following a deficit of £4.4 billion in the previous quarter. This was driven by an increase in the debt securities deficit. UK earnings on portfolio investment abroad decreased by £0.7 billion, due to decreased earnings on both debt and equity securities. Foreign earnings on portfolio investment in the UK decreased by £0.2 billion, due to lower earnings on UK equity securities.
The deficit on earnings from other investment remained largely unchanged at £3.5 billion in the latest quarter, with earnings on other investment in the UK and earnings on other investment abroad both decreasing by £0.5 billion.
In 2011, the surplus on income increased by £12.4 billion to £21.0 billion, due to an increase in the surplus on direct investment income outweighing an increase in the deficit on portfolio investment income.
There was a direct investment surplus of £52.2 billion in 2011, £17.7 billion higher than in the previous year. Receipts increased by £25.0 billion to £97.5 billion, mainly due to the direct investment earnings of UK banks switching from losses to profits and increased receipts by other financial intermediaries. Payments rose by £7.3 billion to £45.4 billion, largely due to higher profits by foreign owned banks in the UK.
In 2011, the portfolio investment income deficit rose by £4.4 billion to £16.5 billion, with increased deficits on both equity securities and debt securities. Receipts increased to £51.7 billion in 2011, £4.6 billion higher than in the previous year, while payments increased by £9.0 billion to £68.2 billion in the latest year.
The deficit on other investment increased by £0.8 billion to £15.0 billion in 2011; receipts were £6.3 billion higher at £38.7 billion, while payments were £7.1 higher at £53.7 billion.
The deficit on current transfers increased by £0.2 billion to £6.0 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, due to a fall in the deficit for general government being outweighed by an increase in the deficit for other sectors. It should be noted that the quarterly path of net contributions to EU institutions can be erratic.
The annual deficit on current transfers was £22.2 billion in 2011, £1.8 billion higher than in 2010 and the highest on record. The current transfers deficit with EU institutions increased by £0.6 billion in 2011.
The capital account recorded a surplus of £0.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, a decrease of £0.3 billion from the previous quarter. The annual surplus in 2011 was £3.6 billion, £0.1 billion lower than in the previous year.
The financial account showed a net inflow (i.e. inward investment) of £15.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with a net inflow of £18.0 billion in the previous quarter. There was a switch from £94.0 billion investment abroad (outflow) to disinvestment of £77.4 billion in the latest quarter. There was also a switch from £112.1 billion investment in the UK (inflow) to disinvestment of £62.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Direct investment recorded a net outflow (i.e. outward investment) of £0.1 billion in the fourth quarter compared with a net outflow of £3.3 billion in the previous quarter.
Direct investment abroad switched from net investment of £17.1 billion in the third quarter to disinvestment of £1.1 billion in the latest quarter. This was mainly due due to a switch in other capital transactions to a £6.8 billion net disinvestment, compared to a £3.5 billion net investment in the previous quarter. There were also decreases in investment in equity capital and reinvested earnings of £3.3 billion and £4.6 billion respectively. On a sector basis, the fall in investment was mainly driven by a decrease in investment abroad by private non-financial corporations of £17.1 billion.
Direct investment in the UK switched from net investment of £13.9 billion in the third quarter to net disinvestment of £1.2 billion in the fourth quarter. This was mainly due to a switch in other capital transactions from net investment of £7.9 billion in the third quarter to net disinvestment of £7.9 billion in the latest quarter. On a sector basis, the decrease in net investment was primarily driven by UK private non-financial corporations switching to disinvestment of £3.4 billion in the fourth quarter, following investment of £14.7 billion in the previous quarter.
Portfolio investment recorded a net inflow of £5.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, a fall from £51.9 billion in the previous quarter. Equity securities switched from a net inflow in the previous quarter of £31.0 billion to a net outflow of £5.2 billion in the fourth quarter and the net inflow on debt securities fell by £9.7 billion to £11.1 billion in the latest quarter.
Portfolio investment abroad switched to a net investment of £1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011 from a net realisation of £67.1 billion in the previous quarter. The change was driven by a fall in net disinvestment by UK monetary financial institutions to £15.2 billion, from £73.6 billion in the third quarter, which was partially offset by increased net investment by other financial intermediaries.
Portfolio investment in the UK switched to net investment of £7.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, following net disinvestment of £15.3 billion in the previous quarter. This was due to a switch from disinvestment of £6.5 billion in equity securities in the third quarter to investment of £8.0 billion in the latest quarter, together with a fall from £29.2 billion to £11.0 billion in net realisations of certificates of deposits issued by UK monetary financial institutions.
Financial derivatives showed net settlement payments of £4.4 billion in the fourth quarter following net settlement receipts of £12.0 billion in the previous quarter.
Other investment in the latest quarter recorded net inflows of £6.2 billion in the fourth quarter compared with net outflows of £19.5 billion in the previous quarter.
Other investment abroad recorded net inflows (disinvestment) of £74.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, following net outflows (investment) of £133.0 billion in the previous quarter. The switch to a net inflow was mainly due to UK residents switching from £115.5 billion net deposits abroad to £58.6 net withdrawal of deposits abroad in the latest quarter, together with non-residents switching to £17.2 billion net repayments on short term loans from UK monetary financial institutions, following net borrowing of £16.7 billion in the previous quarter.
Other investment in the UK showed a net disinvestment of £68.0 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with net investment of £113.5 billion in the previous quarter. The fall in investment was driven by non-residents switching from £121.9 billion of net deposits in foreign currency to £25.1 billion net withdrawal of foreign currency deposits with UK banks in the latest quarter.
Reserve assets showed net investment of £1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with net disinvestment of £1.0 billion in the previous quarter.
In 2011, the financial account showed a net inflow (i.e. inward investment) of £28.1 billion, compared with a net inflow of £41.0 billion in the previous year. There was net investment abroad of £213.2 billion in 2011, following net investment of £298.0 billion in the previous year. There was foreign net investment in the UK of £241.2 billion in 2011, following net investment of £339.0 billion in 2010.
Direct investment recorded a net outflow (i.e. outward investment) of £30.2 billion in 2011, compared with a net inflow of £13.4 billion in the previous year. Direct investment abroad showed investment £64.1 billion, £44.0 billion higher than in 2010. Direct investment in the UK was £33.8 billion in 2011, £0.3 billion higher than in the previous year.
Portfolio investment recorded a net outflow of £30.3 billion in 2011, compared with a net inflow of £1.1 billion in 2010. Portfolio investment abroad showed net investment of £22.3 billion in 2011, £54.5 billion lower than in the previous year, while portfolio investment in the UK switched from net investment of £77.9 billion in 2010 to net disinvestment of £8.0 billion in 2011.
Financial derivatives showed net settlement payments of £16.8 billion in 2011, following net settlement payments of £32.8 billion in the previous year.
Other investment recorded net inflows of £76.8 billion in 2011 compared with net outflows of £0.3 billion in the previous year. Other investment abroad fell from net investment of £227.9 billion in 2010 to net investment of £138.6 billion in the latest year. Other investment in the UK showed net investment of £215.4 billion in 2011, £12.2 billion lower than in the previous year.
Reserve assets showed net investment of £4.9 billion in 2011, following net investment of £6.1 billion in 2010.
The international investment position showed net external liabilities (i.e. liabilities exceed assets) of £201.9 billion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with net external liabilities of £165.4 billion at the end of the previous quarter. UK assets abroad decreased by £349.7 billion from the end of the third quarter of 2011 to a level of £10,964.5 billion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2011. The decrease in the stock of UK assets in the fourth quarter of 2011 was mainly due to a decrease in the stock of financial derivative assets. UK liabilities decreased by £313.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011 to a level of £11,166.4 billion. The decrease in UK liabilities was primarily due to a decrease in the stock of financial derivatives liabilities.
Data in this release have been revised from the first quarter of 2011. Revisions tables are included in the balance of payments reference tables (Tables R1, R2 and R3).
Trade in goods – Revisions to trade in goods from January 2011 reflect revised data from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and other data suppliers, revised estimates of trading associated with VAT MTIC fraud, later survey data on trade prices and a re-assessment of seasonal factors.
Trade in services – Revisions for 2011 are due to the inclusion of new source data from the International Trade in Services survey, the Bank of England and ONS financial inquiries.
Current transfers – Revisions to current transfers are attributable to revised source data for transfers involving the UK government and the use of the latest data for various ONS surveys.
Capital account – Revisions to the capital account are attributable to revised source data from the International Trade in Services survey.
Investment income, financial account and international investment position – Revisions from the first quarter of 2011 reflect new and revised survey data, a reassessment of coverage adjustments to data from the Bank for International Settlements and a reassessment of seasonal factors. Revisions to the third quarter of 2011 also reflect new estimates from the Bank for International Settlements.
In accordance with the National Accounts revision policy (67.8 Kb Pdf) , the current revisions period is open back to the first quarter of 2011.
Future revision period
The next balance of payments release, for the first quarter of 2012, will have a revision period back to the first quarter of 2009.
Code of Practice for Official Statistics
National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
© Crown Copyright 2012.
Understanding the data
1. Short guide to Balance of Payments
A guide to balance of payments can be found within the methodological notes of the UK Balance of Payments Pink Book.
2. Interpreting the data
ONS and the Bank of England are reviewing the measurement of banks’ earnings on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The current estimates of banks’ earnings on FDI are shown on an all inclusive basis, including holding gains and losses, but FDI earnings can also be presented on a current operating performance basis, which excludes holding gains and losses. Current international standards, as defined in the fifth edition of the Balance of Payments Manual, allow presentation on either basis. The UK intends to move to a current operating performance measure when it implements the sixth edition of the Balance of Payments Manual in 2014.
Import figures for Trade in Goods include adjustments to allow for the impact of trade associated with VAT Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud. The adjustments were introduced for the first time in the UK Trade May 2003 First Release published on 9 July 2003. The adjustments are added to the EU import estimates derived from Intrastat returns.
An article explaining the fraud and the impact on the trade figures was published on 9 July 2003. A follow-up article was published on 17 February 2005, which summarises the work carried out since July 2003, to review the estimates of the impact on the trade figures.
Changes to the pattern of trading associated with MTIC fraud can make it difficult to analyse trade by commodity group and by country, as changes in the impact of activity associated with this fraud affect both imports and exports. Originally, most carousel chains only involved EU member states. From 2004 in particular, some carousel chains included non-EU countries, e.g. Dubai and Switzerland. However, the MTIC trade adjustments are added to the EU import estimates derived from Intrastat returns as it is this part of the chain that is not generally recorded. In particular, adjustments affect trade in capital goods and intermediate goods - these categories include mobile phones and computer components, which are still the most widely affected goods.
Figures for total exports and imports less adjustments for trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud are given in the monthly UK Trade Statistical Bulletin.
From the first quarter 2010, ONS have included financial derivatives business of UK securities dealers in both the UK’s financial account (flows) and the international investment position (stocks). The inclusion of this data improves the sector coverage of financial derivatives which previously included only data on financial derivatives business of UK banks.
An article detailing the improvements to the coverage of derivatives within the United Kingdom Economic Accounts was published on 25 October 2011.
Figures for the most recent periods are provisional and subject to revision in light of: (a) late and corrected responses to surveys; (b) revisions to seasonal adjustment factors which are re-estimated annually.
ONS delivered Q4 2011 flash estimates of the current account at the end of February to Eurostat solely for them to estimate aggregate euro-indicators. The same approach is followed for each quarterly delivery.
In order to comply with Regulation (EC) No 184/2005, ONS supply Eurostat and the European Central Bank with current account data for trade in services and investment income unadjusted for FISIM e.g. FISIM will not be included in trade in services but will remain in investment income. Additionally, a detailed geographical and product breakdown of trade in services is supplied to Eurostat to comply with the same regulation. Both deliveries are scheduled to take place on 30 March 2012.
3. Definition and explanation
A glossary of terms is published in the UK Balance of Payments Pink Book.
4. Use of the data
Balance of payments estimates are used by the Bank of England and the Treasury to inform decisions on monetary and fiscal policy. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills also uses balance of payments estimates to identify international trade partners. International users include the Statistical Office for the European Union (Eurostat) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Eurostat uses UK figures to compile aggregate EU accounts and the IMF collate data as a means of ensuring financial stability and sustainability.
Examples of how government departments use balance of payments estimates are:
In providing ministerial briefing on the headline Balance of Payments and Trade statistics pre-release.
Feeding data into their own regular analyses of the macro economy, and also into more ad-hoc and in-depth analyses. For example, importance of trade with particular countries or groups of countries, importance of trade in different commodities/services, identifying comparative advantage, changes in import and export prices, economic contribution from trade and income, and looking at inward and outward investment. These analyses/briefings are aimed to inform ministers/decision makers of the current/historical situation, and provide evidence for the policy debate.
Balance of payments data are also of interest to a wider range of user groups including the media, researchers and other regional, national and international policy makers. Some users focus primarily on the developments in the current account and their financing, including the sustainability of the current account imbalances in the longer term and the need for policy adjustments. Others focus on an analytic presentation, classifying its standard components of balance of payments and their relationship to other components (eg. trade and direct investment, and foreign direct investment and productivity). The balance of payments allows a sector breakdown of the financial account and their relationship to domestic sources of finance.
Further details on use of the data can be found in the User engagement survey (81.8 Kb Pdf) .
The balance of payments methodological notes can be found within the UK Balance of Payments Pink Book.
1. Composition of the data
Table C provides an EU/non-EU breakdown of the current account. Data in this release are presented on an EU27 basis, reflecting the expansion of EU membership on 1 January 2007. A quarterly geographic breakdown of the UK's current account with the Euro area, the USA, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India and Russia is also available and is published in United Kingdom Economic Accounts (UKEA).
From the 1st quarter 2011 edition of the UKEA, as Estonia joined the euro area on 1 January 2011, Estonia has been included within the time series for transactions with economic and monetary union (EMU) members shown in tables B6 and B6A. As a result of this change to coverage, most of the time series for transactions with EMU members now have new four character identifiers. The time series for trade in goods have retained their previous identifiers, though their coverage has also been amended to include Estonia.
International investment position statistics are based on recording direct investments at book values and other assets and liabilities at estimated market values. These estimates are likely in some respects to be deficient in scope and coverage. Quarterly estimates tend to be less reliable because they are largely based on cumulated flows and not reported levels.
In theory, every credit entry should be matched by a corresponding debit so that total current, capital and financial account credits should be equal to, and therefore offset by, total debits. In practice there is a discrepancy termed net errors and omissions. The net errors and omissions are shown on Table A.
2. Seasonal adjustment
Current and capital accounts are seasonally adjusted. Financial account and international investment position data are not seasonally adjusted.
When compiling the geographic breakdown of income, current transfers and trade in services, the EU countries are seasonally adjusted. The non-EU seasonally adjusted figure is calculated by subtracting the seasonally adjusted EU total from the seasonally adjusted world total. Both EU and non-EU data are seasonally adjusted for trade in goods; these are aggregated to form the world total.
1. Basic quality information
Common pitfalls in interpreting series: Expectations of accuracy and reliability in early estimates are often too high. Revisions are an inevitable consequence of the trade off between timeliness and accuracy. Early estimates are based on incomplete data.
Very few statistical revisions arise as a result of ‘errors’ in the popular sense of the word. All estimates, by definition, are subject to statistical ‘error’; but in this context the word refers to the uncertainty inherent in any process or calculation that uses sampling, estimation or modelling. Most revisions reflect either the adoption of new statistical techniques, or the incorporation of new information which allows the statistical error of previous estimates to be reduced. Only rarely are there avoidable ‘errors’ such as human or system failures, and such mistakes are made quite clear when they do occur.
2. Summary Quality Report
A Summary Quality Report (117.6 Kb Pdf) for this Statistical Bulletin can be found on the ONS website.
3. National Accounts revisions policy
The data in this Statistical Bulletin are subject to revisions following the ONS
National Accounts Revision policy (67.8 Kb Pdf)
Estimates for the most recent quarters are provisional and, as usual, are subject to revision in light of updated source information. ONS has recently started to provide an analysis of past revisions in the Balance of Payments and other Statistical Bulletins which present time series.
4. Revision triangles
Revisions to data provide one indication of the reliability of key indicators. The table below show summary information on the size and direction of the revisions which have been made to the data covering a five year period. A statistical test has been applied to the average revision to find out if it is statistically significantly different from zero. An asterisk (*) shows that the test is significant.
The table covers estimates first published in the balance of payments from June 2004 (2004Q1) to March 2009 (2008Q4).
|Current account (seasonally adjusted)|
|Value in latest period||Revisions between first publication and estimates three years later|
|Average over the last five years||Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revisions)|
Spreadsheets giving revisions analysis (real time databases) of estimates from 1996 to date and the calculations behind the averages in the table are available on the ONS website.
An article analysing balance of payments current account revisions was published in the May 2007 edition of Economic & Labour Market Review (340.2 Kb Pdf) .
Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office. Also available is a list of the organisations given pre-publication access (42.2 Kb Pdf) to the contents of this bulletin.
The complete run of data in the tables of this statistical bulletin is available to view and download in electronic format through ONS Time Series Data. Users can download the complete bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and then download their own sections of individual series. The Time Series Data can be accessed on the ONS website.
Further balance of payments data is available online in the quarterly ONS publication United Kingdom Economic Accounts (UKEA).
Next Publication Date: 28 June 2012
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