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  • Press release

Euro area monthly balance of payments: December 2020

19 February 2021

  • Current account recorded €37 billion surplus in December 2020, up from €25 billion in previous month
  • Current account surplus amounted to €248 billion (2.2% of euro area GDP) in 2020, down from €281 billion (2.3%) in 2019
  • In financial account, euro area residents’ net acquisitions of foreign portfolio investment securities totalled €644 billion in 2020 and non-residents’ net acquisitions of euro area portfolio investment securities totalled €164 billion

Chart 1

Euro area current account balance

(EUR billions unless otherwise indicated; working day and seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

The current account of the euro area recorded a surplus of €37 billion in December 2020, increasing by €12 billion from the previous month (see Chart 1 and Table 1). Surpluses were recorded for goods (€38 billion), services (€11 billion) and primary income (€1 billion). These were partly offset by a deficit for secondary income (€14 billion).

Table 1

Current account of the euro area

(EUR billions unless otherwise indicated; transactions; working day and seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

Note: Discrepancies between totals and their components may be due to rounding.

Data for the current account of the euro area

In 2020 the current account recorded a surplus of €248 billion (2.2% of euro area GDP), compared with a surplus of €281 billion (2.3% of euro area GDP) in 2019. This decline was driven by reductions in the surpluses for services (down from €59 billion to €36 billion) and primary income (down from €45 billion to €28 billion), but also by a larger deficit for secondary income (up from €152 billion to €159 billion). These developments were partly offset by a larger surplus for goods (up from €328 billion to €343 billion).

Chart 2

Selected items of the euro area financial account

(EUR billions; 12-month cumulated data)

Source: ECB.

Notes: For assets, a positive (negative) number indicates net purchases (sales) of non-euro area instruments by euro area investors. For liabilities, a positive (negative) number indicates net sales (purchases) of euro area instruments by non-euro area investors.

In direct investment, euro area residents made net investments of €46 billion in non-euro area assets in 2020, following net investments of €25 billion in 2019 (see Chart 2 and Table 2). Non-residents made net investments in euro area assets of €166 billion in 2020, after net investments of €97 billion in 2019.

In portfolio investment, net purchases of foreign debt securities by euro area residents increased to €436 billion in 2020, from €367 billion in 2019. Similarly, net purchases of foreign equity increased to €207 billion, from €69 billion in 2019. Over the same period, non-residents’ net purchases of euro area debt securities decreased to €47 billion from €227 billion in 2019. Likewise, non-residents’ net purchases of euro area equity decreased to €117 billion from €256 billion in 2019.

Table 2

Financial account of the euro area

(EUR billions unless otherwise indicated; transactions; non-working day and non-seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

Notes: Decreases in assets and liabilities are shown with a minus sign. Net financial derivatives are reported under assets. “MFIs” stands for monetary financial institutions. Discrepancies between totals and their components may be due to rounding.

Data for the financial account of the euro area

In other investment, euro area residents’ net acquisitions of foreign assets increased to €381 billion in 2020 from €239 billion in 2019, while their net incurrence of liabilities was €466 billion (following net disposals of €93 billion in 2019).

Chart 3

Monetary presentation of the balance of payments

(EUR billions; 12-month cumulated data)

Source: ECB.

Notes: MFI net external assets (enhanced) incorporates an adjustment to MFI net external assets (as reported in the consolidated MFI balance sheet items statistics) based on information on MFI long-term liabilities held by non-residents, available in balance of payments (b.o.p.) statistics. B.o.p. transactions refer only to transactions of non-MFI residents of the euro area. Financial transactions are shown as liabilities net of assets. “Other” includes financial derivatives and statistical discrepancies.

The monetary presentation of the balance of payments (see Chart 3) shows that the net external assets (enhanced) of euro area MFIs increased by €16 billion in 2020. This increase was driven by the current and capital accounts surplus, euro area non-MFIs’ net inflows in direct investment and, to a lesser extent, euro area non-MFIs’ net inflows in other flows. These developments were partly offset by euro area non-MFIs’ net outflows in portfolio investment (equity and debt securities) and in other investment.

In December 2020 the Eurosystem’s stock of reserve assets increased to €878.7 billion, from €859.4 billion in the previous month (see Table 3). This increase was mostly driven by positive gold price changes (€23.0 billion) and, to a lesser extent, by net acquisitions of assets (€1.7 billion). The increase was only partly offset by negative exchange rate changes (€5.2 billion).

Table 3

Reserve assets of the euro area

(EUR billions; amounts outstanding at the end of the period, flows during the period; non-working day and non-seasonally adjusted data)

Source: ECB.

Note: “Other reserve assets” comprises currency and deposits, securities, financial derivatives (net) and other claims. Discrepancies between totals and their components may be due to rounding.

Data for the reserve assets of the euro area

Data revisions

This press release incorporates revisions to the data for October and November 2020. These revisions did not significantly alter the figures previously published.

Next releases:

  • Monthly balance of payments: 22 March 2021 (reference data up to January 2021)
  • Quarterly balance of payments and international investment position: 9 April 2021 (reference data up to the fourth quarter of 2020)

For media queries, please contact Philippe Rispal, tel.: +49 69 1344 5482.

Notes

  • Current account data are always seasonally and working day-adjusted, unless otherwise indicated, whereas capital and financial account data are neither seasonally nor working day-adjusted.
  • Hyperlinks in this press release lead to data that may change with subsequent releases as a result of revisions.
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