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Trade Information Bulletin No. 332

Supplement to Commerce Reports

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INTRODUCTION

This is the third of a series of annual bulletins (previous issues Trade Information Bulletins Nos. 104 and 225), summarizing in compact form the foreign trade of the United States. These bulletins form the basis of the chapter on foreign trade in the annual Commerce Yearbook. The present bulletin presents comparative statistics for 1924 and preceding postwar years, as well as averages for pre-war years, covering the total exports and imports, and the trade by continents and countries, by great economic classes, and in the principal individual commodities. There is also a discussion of the charges in the physical volume of trade and of the relation between the value of exports and the value of domestic production. More detailed statistics of foreign trade for the calendar year 1924 are contained in the December issue of the Monthly Summary of Commerce and Finance published by this bureau. The annual report on Commerce and Navigation of the United States for 1924 will show the trade in each specific commodity with each country of the world, together with other detailed data presenting a complete picture of our foreign trade in that year. The Division of Statistical Research also prepares annually a bulletin analyzing the statistics of foreign trade for the fiscal year ending June 30. The issue for the fiscal year 1923-24 is Trade Information Bulletin No. 276.

JULIUS KLEIN, Director. APRIL, 1925.

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FOREIGN TRADE OF THE UNITED STATES, 1924

SUMMARY Exports of merchandise in 1924 totaled $4,591,000,000, an increase of 10 per cent over 1923. Imports amounted to $3,611,000,000, a decrease of 4.8 per cent from the exceptionally high figure of the preceding year. The excess of merchandise exports over imports increased more than two and onehalf fold, notwithstanding which there was some decline in the net excess of imports of gold, and toward the end of the year there was an excess of exports of that metal attributable to a loan to Germany. The large excess of exports of merchandise was in considerable part financed by American loans to foreign countries.

The increase in exports was largely attributable to greater shipments of wheat and rye at higher prices and greater shipments of cotton. However, finished manufactures increased by 7.5 per cent, principally in automobiles, machinery, and petroleum products, shipments of cotton manufactures, paper, boots and shoes, and heavy iron and steel products falling off somewhat in value. The decrease in iron and steel was in great part due to reduced demand in Canada on account of the poor harvest there. The growth in exports was chiefy in trade with Europe and South America, shipments to North America and Asia being virtually stationary in value.

The increase over 1923 in the value of exports took place in the face of some decrease in average export prices. On the other hand the decline in imports was partly attributable to lower average prices of imported goods, notably of rubber, silk, and sugar. The principal quantitative decreases of imports were in hides and skins and wool, though there were also declines in numerous articles of less importance.

The trade of the United States continues to show a large excess over prewar figures, even after eliminating the effect of the difference in prices. In this respect our situation contrasts sharply with that of leading European countries which, despite considerable recovery in the last few years, are still exporting much less quantitatively than before the war. The value of our domestic exports was, in 1924, 111 per cent greater than the pre-war average (1910–1914 fiscal years). Had prices been the same (calculating both periods on the basis of 1929 prices), the increase in 1924 over pre-war would have been 26 per cent. The value of imports in 1924 was 113.8 per cent greater than before the war, about the same increase as for exports. Import prices, however, show less advance over pre-war levels than export prices, principally because the price of rubber, one of our most important imports, has fallen greatly. On the basis of constant prices 1924 im ports would show an increase of 50.2 per cent over pre-war. This increase represents the advancing standards of living in the United States, demanding constantly greater quantities of tropical and other exotic foodstuffs and raw materials.

Notwithstanding the marked increase in our exports as compared with prewar years and especially in those of manufactured goods, exports as a whole and exports of manufactured goods do not constitute a larger proportion of

war.

our total production of all articles or of manufactured articles than before the

This fact is attributable to the great expansion of our domestic market. The prosperity of the United States has enabled its people to produce and consume increasing quantities especially of highly elaborated goods, while the depressed economic situation of many foreign countries holds down their consumption.

INFLUENCE OF PRICES ON VALUE AS A MEASURE OF TRADE

Although statistics of our foreign commerce are available in detail, the very great variety of items makes it impossible to compile any grand group total of volume or quantity. Value is the only complete measure available, and though highly significant in itself changes in the value of exports and imports from time to time represent the product of two variables-quantity and price. During the past three or four years the average level of prices has changed only moderately. If, however, comparisons are carried back through the war and to pre-war years, very great changes in the level of prices have taken place, which have affected greatly the comparability of the statistics of trade. Moreover, there have been marked differences as among different commodities in the relative price movement, so that comparisons of the changes in values of specific commodities or groups may give misleading impressions as to the relative changes in their quantities.

GENERAL MOVEMENT OF TRADE

Recent Yearly Totals of Merchandise Exports and Imports.

The gradual growth in the value of our trade prior to the war, the sharp increases of the war period, the marked decline after the postwar boom, and the subsequent upturn, first in import and later in export trade are shown in Table 1, and graphically by Chart I. The figures present also a vivid picture of the building up through excesses of exports of the tremendous credits abroad which have resulted in our shift from a debtor to the world's greatest creditor nation.

The total merchandise exports, domestic and foreign, in 1924, were valued at $4,591,000,000, and imports at $3,611,000,000. Compared with 1923 these figures represent an increase in exports of $423,000,000 or 10.2 per cent, and a decrease in imports of $182,000,000, or 4.8 per cent. As a result of these changes in the opposite direction, the excess of exports increased from $375,000,000 in 1923 to $980,000,000 in 1924, or more than two and one-half fold. As more fully shown later, the increase in exports and the decrease in imports were chiefly due to changes in quantity and not to changes in price levels.

Chart 1.-YEARLY MERCHANDISE AND COMBINED MERCHANDISE, GOLD AND SILVER EXPORTS FROM AND IMPORTS INTO THE UNITED STATES

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Table 1.—Exports, Imports, and Balance of Trade of the United States
Beginning with 1915 figures are for calendar years, previously for years ending June 30

[Values in millions of dollars)

[graphic]

Table 2.-Increase or Decrease of Foreign Trade in 1924 as compared with

Pre-War Average and Postwar Years

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The export trade of 1924 was greater than in any preceding year since 1920. The fact that the exports were about 44 per cent less than in 1920 is largely attributable to the decline in prices. The value of imports in 1924, while lower than in the preceding year, had previously been exceeded only in the two years 1919 and 1920, in both of which the higher figures were due entirely to much higher prices.

While the excess of exports of merchandise over imports was much greater in 1924 than in either of the two preceding years, it was much less than during any year from 1915 to 1921, the peculiar conditions of the war period having resulted in altogether abnormal export surpluses. Comparison with Pre-War Trade.

For the purpose of comparison of recent with pre-war figures, the five-year period from 1910 to 1914 (fiscal years) may be taken as a base, or the single years 1913 or 1914. Trade was increasing year by year before the war, so that the average for the five-year period is materially lower than the figure for either of its last two individual years. The fiscal year 1913 was the peak pre-war year for exports, and 1914 the peak year for imports.

Exports in 1924 were 86.2 per cent greater in value than in 1913; 94.2 per cent greater than in 1914; and 112 per cent greater than the 1910–1914 average. The increase in value of imports has been more marked, the 1924 figures exceeding that of 1913 by 99.1 per cent, of 1914 by 90.6 per cent, and the average 1910–1914 by 113.8 per cent. While these increases have been in considerable part due to higher prices there has been a definite growth in the physical volume of trade in both directions. Some commodities such as cotton and lumber are moving abroad in smaller quantities than prior to the war but most leading export commodities show increases over the pre-war period. The increase in imports, in terms of quantity, has been considerably greater. Nearly all items for which quantity data are available (principally raw materials and tropical foodstuffs) have

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