Surplus on the Dutch current account remains considerable

Statistical News Release
Date 17 September 2013

The balance of payments current account ended the second quarter of 2013 with a EUR 14 billion surplus (9% of GDP). As in previous years, the positive balance thus was below the result of the preceding quarter (EUR 21 billion, downward-adjusted from EUR 23 billion). However, compared to the corresponding quarter of 2012, there was a slight increase. Despite the current account surplus, Dutch external assets remained broadly the same at EUR 314 billion.

Current account balance
As usual, the results were driven strongly by the trade in goods – which divides into the trade in natural gas and other energy products (the energy account) and trade in other merchandise. The energy account (balance: EUR -2.5 billion) showed a quarter-on-quarter decline in natural gas exports, in line with normal seasonal patterns. Compared to the corresponding quarter of 2012, however, gas exports went up owing to the relatively cold weather in Europe. Still, the energy balance came out lower than last year, due to lower exports of other energy products.
Offsetting the negative energy balance was a black-figure balance from other merchandise: EUR 13 billion. As a consequence of lower import and export values, which declined 4 and 1% respectively compared to the second quarter of 2012, the surplus in other merchandise increased. The underlying total import and export volumes of goods were more or less on a par with the previous year's level. In services there was no decline in value. The import value was comparable to a year earlier and export value increased some 5%. This resulted in net services exports of almost EUR 3 billion, with the largest contributions coming from transport services (over EUR 2 billion) and other business to business services (EUR 1 billion).
Meanwhile, the income account balance once more contributed to the current account surplus, albeit less strongly than in the previous quarter. Total incomes from direct investment (stakes of 10% or over) receded from the peak in the first quarter, to over EUR 5 billion. Dividends received and paid on portfolio investments clearly show that the 'dividend season' falls in the second quarter (see the Chart).


Financial transactions, in line with preceding quarters, showed low activity in direct investments. Foreign corporations reduced their direct investments in the Netherlands by approximately EUR 3 billion in the second quarter, while Dutch corporations also withdrew assets (approximately EUR 4 billion) from foreign subsidiaries. Securities transactions by Dutch investors yielded net sales of foreign debt securities worth EUR 2 billion, whereas foreign investors, on balance, bought EUR 6 billion in Dutch debt securities. These purchases almost entirely related to shares, including those issued by KPN and ASML. For the third consecutive quarter, Spain features in the top 5 of Dutch purchases of foreign debt securities. As a result, Dutch investments in Spanish debt securities are almost on a par with those in Italian debt securities. Exposures to the United States, France and Germany are still well above this level.