BRATISLAVA -- A continued boom in exports related to Slovakia's car-making industry helped further shrink the future EU member's once troublesome foreign trade gap in February.
Data on Friday showed the February trade shortfall was 3.313 billion crowns, compared with a gap of 6.330 billion crowns in the same month last year, the Statistics Office said.
The gap was slightly narrower than market expectations, which were for an imbalance of 3.7 billion crowns.
The cumulative trade gap for the first two months of this year was 4.143 billion crowns, compared with 12.045 billion crowns through the end of February 2002.
"It was more or less in harmony with our expectations. It seems that the structure of the foreign trade has not changed," said Slovenska Sporitelna analyst Andrea Borcinova.
"Exports are mainly driven by cars, machinery and metals. But, as I said, the result is sort of the market consensus average, and should not have an immediate impact (on the crown currency)."
Other market watchers were slightly underwhelmed by the figures, saying mildly enthusiastic comments from the central bank and the economy ministry earlier this week had hinted at even better trade performance.
Exports showed an annual rise of 19.9 percent. The fastest increase came in plastic and rubber goods -- which, among other items include tyres and other components such as dashboards and mouldings used in car production -- which rose 35.8 percent.
Sales abroad of metal goods rose 13.5 percent, while transportation equipment, which includes Slovakia's vital car exports, rose 20 percent on the year.
Slovakia's car-making industry has long dominated the country's economy, making up almost 20 percent of industrial sales last year, and has surged even further in recent months after Volkswagen launched production of a new four-wheel drive model last autumn.
Imports rose only by 10.1 percent, the stats office said.
The central bank has said it may allow slight firming on the crown if the trade deficit -- which was its largest headache last year -- continues to improve.
Comments to that effect earlier this week have pushed the unit up three-quarters-of-a-percent since Tuesday.