Preliminary balance-of-payments figures for the fourth quarter of 2018 show Russian revenues from exports of goods & services were up nearly 20 % y-o-y even if the growth was no longer as fast as in the previous quarter. For the entire year, export earnings were up by over 20 % as revenues from energy exports ballooned by over 30 % on strong export prices.
Russia’s spending on imports of goods & services in the second half of last year was unchanged from 2H17. For all of 2018, spending on imports was up by a few per cent. The spending of Russian travellers abroad was up by about 10 % for the year although the growth stopped in the fourth quarter. The overwhelming underlying factor was ruble depreciation. Total spending on imports of goods & services in the second half of last year roughly matched 2008 and 2010 levels.
The gap between export earnings and spending on imports widened in 2018 to produce a whopping current account surplus of about 7 % of GDP – Russia’s largest current account surplus since 2006.
The net capital outflow from the private sector increased substantially in 2018. The flow of direct investments from abroad into the Russian corporate sector (excl. banks) dried up almost entirely, while FDI outflows from Russia remained rather notable. Similar to 2017, banks’ capital outflow abroad mostly arose from decreases in their foreign liabilities.
Russian balance-of-payments key items, 2016−2018
Source: Central Bank of Russia.