Exports to the United States declined in February from January and from a year earlier, while purchases of U.S. goods managed only a marginal gain from January and a slight fall from February 1989.

Figures released by the Census and Statistics Department show domestic exports to the colony's single largest market brought in HK$3.66 billion (US$469 million) in February. That was 44 percent below the HK$5.27 billion of January and 14 percent below the HK$4.27 billion of February 1989.Imports from the United States cost HK$3.62 billion in February. That was up 2 percent on the HK$3.55 billion of January, but down 4 percent from the HK$3.69 billion of a year earlier.

Re-exports, which for many months have propped up Hong Kong's trade, also wobbled.

Such shipments to the United States in February amounted to HK$4.63 billion, down 34 percent from the HK$6.24 billion of January, though 17 percent above the HK$3.96 billion of February 1989.

Exports to most main markets slipped year-on-year, with gains recorded only by Taiwan (up 53 percent), Singapore (up 43 percent) and China (up 19 percent). Sales dipped to Britain (down 27 percent), Canada (down 20 percent), Australia (down 18 percent), West Germany (down 17 percent) and Japan (down 8 percent), as well as to the United States.

Imports were more evenly split, with increased purchases from Italy (up 23 percent), Singapore and China (each up 20 percent), Taiwan (up 11 percent) and Switzerland (up 4 percent). Imports fell from West Germany (down 16 percent), South Korea (down 12 percent), Japan (down 4 percent) and Britain (down 2 percent), as well as from the United States.

Re-exports were mostly stronger. In addition to the United States, increases were recorded to West Germany (up 38 percent), Taiwan (up 28 percent), Canada (up 27 percent), Singapore (up 24 percent), Britain (up 6 percent) and Japan (up 5 percent).

For all markets in the first two months of this year compared with last, the strongest gainers among domestic exports were miscellaneous edibles (up 22 percent), artificial resins and plastics (up 20 percent) and tobacco and its manufactures (up 7 percent). Decreases were noted in electrical goods and parts (down 14 percent) and clothing (down 4 percent).

Most in demand among imports in the period were footwear (up 54 percent), miscellaneous manufactures (up 21 percent) and clothing (up 18 percent). Purchases of electrical equipment declined 9 percent.

Re-exports showed the greatest growth among footwear (up 62 percent), miscellaneous manufactures (up 39 percent) and clothing (up 25 percent).

Total February exports amounted to HK$13 billion, down 3 percent from January's HK$16.6 billion and down 5 percent from February of 1989. Re-exports totaled HK$24.4 billion, down 12.6 percent from the HK$27.9 billion of January but 9 percent ahead of the HK$22 billion of a year earlier.

Imports cost HK$40 billion, down 1.5 percent from the HK$41 billion of January but 5 percent greater than in February 1989.

For the first two months of the year, Hong Kong had a trade surplus of HK$790 million on exports of HK$29.9 billion, re-exports of HK$52 billion and imports of HK$81.5 billion.