Current account surplus crosses EUR 20 bn mark

Statistical News Release
Date 17 June 2013

The current account surplus rose to almost EUR 23 billion (15% of GDP) during the first quarter of 2013 – higher than in any previous quarter and substantially higher than a year before.

The improvement on the first quarter of 2012 is due to increased balances on goods (EUR 17 billion), services (EUR 4 billion) and incomes (EUR 6 billion). External assets of the Netherlands rose by over EUR 21 billion to EUR 346 billion.

Current account balance

In the case of goods, the balance increase is due to rising export value and a slight fall in import value. In the first quarter, import value fell for the first time since 2009 compared to the corresponding quarter of last year. Services showed a similar pattern: in the first quarter of 2013 the services balance maintained the high level reached in the preceding quarter. The income balance increased by over EUR 2 billion compared to a year earlier, partly on account of higher external profits of Dutch-based enterprises which were distributed only partially to foreign investors. 
Offsetting the surplus on the current account was a net outflow in the financial account, mainly attributable to portfolio investments. During the first quarter of 2013, portfolio investment transactions led to a net outflow in excess of EUR 16 billion. This was almost entirely due to net purchases of foreign securities by Dutch residents: EUR 7 billion worth of foreign equities, EUR 2 billion in long-term and EUR 7 billion in short-term debt securities. Net purchases of Dutch securities by foreign investors were close to nil, as foreign purchases of Dutch equities worth over EUR 6 billion were offset by comparable net sales of especially short-term debt securities.
Apart from financial transactions, the increase in external assets was also due to price and exchange rate changes. Globally, stocks realised substantial returns. This was reflected in the Netherlands' net external equity assets, which from EUR 167 billion at end-2012 rose by some EUR 31 billion in the first quarter. As Dutch holdings of foreign equities exceed foreign holdings of Dutch equities, rising equity prices benefit the Dutch external assets position. The effect was even more pronounced given the relative underperformance of the Amsterdam stock exchange. 
Dutch investors effected net sales of German debt securities in the first quarter, possibly due to ebbing tensions across the euro area. Amid net overall purchases of foreign debt securities, Dutch residents sold EUR 4 billion worth of German debt securities, mainly sovereign paper. The last net sales of German paper had been recorded in the fourth quarter of 2009. During the 2010–2012 period, net quarterly purchases averaged EUR 5 billion. Germany remains unchallenged as the most important foreign country for Dutch investors in debt paper, with total outstanding holdings worth EUR 172 billion. This equals 26% of total Dutch investments in foreign debt securities. France comes second at 17% or EUR 115 billion. The first quarter saw EUR 3.5 billion in net purchases of French debt securities, narrowing the gap between both countries.

Debt securities Germany and France