India's April merchandise trade deficit widens on lower exports

Workers of a transport company load packages on a truck at a wholesale market in Mumbai

By Sarita Chaganti Singh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India's merchandise trade deficit in April was wider than expected, hurt by lower exports and a surge in gold imports, government data showed on Wednesday.

India's April merchandise trade deficit stood at $19.1 billion, according to a Reuters calculation, higher than economists' expectation of $17.23 billion, according to a Reuters poll. In March it was $15.6 billion.

India's merchandise exports in April stood at $34.99 billion, while imports were $54.09 billion, government data showed. In March, merchandise exports were $41.68 billion, while imports stood at $57.28 billion.

In April gold imports more than doubled to $3.11 billion, compared with $1.53 billion in March. The country, which is the world's third consumer of oil, imported $16.46 billion worth of oil in April compared with $17.23 billion, the government said.

"Gold imports are well within the average trend. It is not an exception," Trade Secretary Sunil Barthwal said.

"Most of the central banks are buying gold because of conflicts. Gold prices have increased and in terms of value imports are appearing to be high."

The share of gold in India's foreign reserves rose to 8.15% at end-March from 7.37% at the end of September.

Services exports in April were $29.57 billion, while imports of $16.97 billion compared with $28.54 billion and $15.84 billion respectively in March.

(Reporting by Sarita Chaganti Singh in New Delhi; Graphics by Riddhima Talwani; Editing by Ros Russell)