Purchases of new cars by households increased by over 40 per cent on average from 1995 to 1996, but flattened out as the year progressed. From the fourth to the first quarter, purchases of cars, corrected for seasonal fluctuations, increased by between 2 and 3 per cent.
After a period with relatively strong growth in household consumption, the initial figures for the first quarter of this year indicate that growth has halted. The decline in consumption from the fourth to the first quarter is largely attributed to lower consumption of goods. The seasonally adjusted figures for purchases of food and beverages, clothing, shoes and leisure equipment went down.
From first quarter 1996 to first quarter this year, growth in the consumption of households and non-profit organizations increased by 1.4 per cent, measured in constant prices. The growth from fourth quarter 1996 to first quarter this year showed a decline of nearly one per cent, adjusted for normal seasonal fluctuations.
Decline in exports
From first quarter 1996 to first quarter this year, exports grew by 0.4 per cent calculated in constant prices, while the seasonally adjusted figures show a decline of nearly three per cent from the fourth to the first quarter. Exports of oil and gas increased by nearly 25 per cent in value from the first quarter last year. There was strong growth in oil and gas prices throughout 1996, so even if the prices for first quarter 1997 were lower than in the fourth quarter, they were still about 19 per cent higher than in first quarter 1996. Exports of oil and gas thus increased by nearly five per cent in volume from first quarter 1996 to first quarter 1997. Oil and gas exports were nearly unchanged from the fourth quarter to the first quarter, seasonally adjusted. The seasonally adjusted figures otherwise show that exports of both traditional goods and services were lower in first quarter 1997 compared to fourth quarter 1996.
Stagnation in imports
The overview for the first quarter shows, measured in constant prices, an import growth rate of 5.1 per cent compared to the same quarter the year before. Corrected for seasonal fluctuations, imports dipped slightly starting in fourth quarter 1996. Import prices, particularly of traditional goods, rose slightly through 1996. Prices went down from the fourth to the first quarter, and compared to prices in first quarter 1996 overall import prices were 1.4 per cent lower in first quarter 1997.
Weekly Bulletin issue no. 23, 1997