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21/07/2016 - Balance of Payments: May 2016

Current account

In May 2016, the current account showed a deficit of €412 million, up by €272 million year-on-year. This development is attributable to a decrease in the surplus of the services balance, which was only partly offset by improvements in the balance of goods and in the primary and the secondary income accounts.

The deficit of the balance of goods fell by €88 million year-on-year, exclusively on account of an improvement in the balance concerning the purchases and sales of ships, which turned from negative in May 2015 to positive in May 2016, while the oil deficit and the deficit of the balance of goods excluding oil and ships increased, given that the relevant exports declined more than the corresponding imports. However, it should be noted that this decrease in the value of exports reflects mainly a decline in the value of oil exports, owing to the year-on-year fall in oil prices. On the contrary, at constant prices, oil exports rose by 9.9% and total exports by 4.5%.

The services balance surplus narrowed by €442 million, mainly as a result of lower net sea transport receipts, which stood at €339 million, down from €672 million in May 2015. Travel receipts fell by 10.4%, despite a 4.4% rise in arrivals, and, as a result, the travel balance deteriorated. Finally, the other services surplus also shrank year-on-year.

The primary and the secondary income accounts showed deficits which were down by €52 and €30 million year-on-year respectively.

In the January-May 2016 period, the current account improved by €884 million year-on-year and showed a deficit of €3.5 billion. This development is attributable to the improvement in the primary and the secondary income accounts, while the balance of goods and services showed a slight deterioration.

The balance of goods showed an improvement of €1.2 billion in the January-May 2016 period, which is mainly attributable to the improved oil balance as a result of lower oil prices. Moreover, net payments for purchases of ships decreased, due to the fact that they are largely conducted outside the Greek banking system after the imposition of capital controls. Finally, it should be noted that both exports of goods excluding oil and ships, and the corresponding imports remained virtually unchanged. It should be pointed out, however, that, at constant prices, exports grew by 6.2%, which reflects mainly a 14% rise in the volume of oil exports. Exports of goods excluding oil, at constant prices, rose slightly by 1.1%.

The surplus of the services balance shrank by €1.3 billion in the January-May 2016 period, as net transport receipts registered a significant decline, which is also largely attributable to capital controls. Net travel receipts also recorded a fall. It should be noted that in the first five months of 2016 total non-residents' arrivals decreased by 1.3% and the corresponding receipts by 6.2%. These developments were offset to a small extent by an improvement in the other services balance.

The primary income account showed a surplus of €1.0 billion, up by €715 million year-on-year, owing to lower net interest, dividend and profit payments, as well as to lower payments for wages and salaries. This improvement offset a contraction in the surplus of the other primary income account. Finally, an improvement was also recorded in the secondary income account.

Capital account

In May 2016, only some minor changes were observed in the capital account which, in the January-May 2016 period, showed a surplus of €670 million, up by €197 million year-on-year.

Combined current and capital account

In May 2016, the combined current and capital account (corresponding to the economy's external financing requirements) showed a deficit of €417 million, down by €289 million year-on-year. In the January-May 2016 period, the deficit shrank by €1.1 billion, to stand at €2.8 billion.

Financial account

In May 2016, no remarkable changes were recorded under direct investment.

Under portfolio investment, an increase of €808 million was recorded in residents' net external assets, which is mainly attributable to a rise of €963 million in residents' holdings of foreign bonds and Treasury bills. On the liabilities side, a decrease of €137 million was recorded, which is mainly accounted for by a fall in non-residents' holdings of Greek government bonds and Treasury bills.

Under other investment, a decline of €2.2 billion in residents' assets is the result of a €1.8 billion decrease in resident credit institutions' and institutional investors' deposit and repo holdings abroad, and of a €498 million drop owing to the statistical adjustment related to the issuance of banknotes. A decrease of €807 million in liabilities mainly reflects the €527 million statistical adjustment and a decline of €432 million in the outstanding debt of the public and the private sector to non-residents. These developments were offset to a small extent by a €152 million rise in non-residents’ deposit and repo holdings in Greece (the TARGET account included).

In the January-May 2016 period, residents' net assets from direct investment abroad rose by €545 million, while the corresponding liabilities that represent non-residents' direct investment in Greece dropped by €0.7 million.

Under portfolio investment, residents' net external assets registered an increase of €3.8 billion, which is mainly attributable to a rise of €4.4 billion in residents' holdings of foreign bonds and Treasury bills. Residents' net external liabilities fell by €49 million, mainly on account of a decline in non-residents' holdings of Greek government bonds and Treasury bills.

Under other investment, a decline in residents' external assets largely reflects a decrease in resident credit institutions' and institutional investors' deposit and repo holdings abroad, as well as the statistical adjustment related to the issuance of banknotes (1). On the liabilities side, an increase of €2.7 billion was recorded, which is attributable to a rise in non-residents’ deposit and repo holdings in Greece (the TARGET account included), as well as a decrease of €2.2 billion in residents’ outstanding debt.

At end-May 2016, Greece’s reserve assets stood at €6.7 billion, compared with €5.2 billion in the corresponding month of 2015.


Note: Balance of payments data for June 2016 will be released on 19 August 2016.


(1) In the January-May 2016 period, both assets and liabilities registered a decrease on account of the statistical adjustment related to the issuance of banknotes, which came to €931 million and €829 million, respectively.


Related link: Balance of Payments: May 2016 - Table