This colony's imports from the United States soared in March, while its exports to the U.S. market recovered from a steep dip in February but were still below the value of a year earlier.

Figures from the Census & Statistics Department show that U.S.-origin imports in March totaled HK$5.5 billion (US$705 million), up 41 percent from the HK$3.9 billion of March 1989 and reversing a 2 percent decline in February. The March gain was the sharpest growth among Hong Kong's top 10 suppliers of goods.Exports to the United States, Hong Kong's largest market, in March brought in HK$4.6 billion, down 1 percent from a year earlier. In February, they were running 14 percent below the 1989 level.

Re-exports to the United States jumped 31 percent, to HK$5.9 billion, from HK$4.5 billion in March 1989.

For the first quarter, imports from the United States totaled HK$12.7 billion, an 18 percent increase on the HK$10.7 billion of 1989.

Imports from the 10 main suppliers generally showed slower growth in the quarter. Aside from the United States, gains were posted only by China (up 13 percent), Italy (up 7 percent) and Switzerland (up 2 percent).

The greatest growth by commodity was in transport equipment (up 227 percent), miscellaneous manufactures (up 21 percent) and clothing (up 19 percent).

Exports remain sluggish. Among the top 10 markets, the only gains on 1989's first quarter were in sales to Taiwan (up 60 percent) and Singapore (up 19 percent).

Sales to the United States were off 4 percent from a year earlier at HK$13.6 billion, compared with HK$14.1 billion.

By commodity, the largest export growth was in tobacco and products (up 68 percent), artificial resins and plastics (up 17 percent) and textiles (up 7 percent). Posting declines were sales of electrical equipment and parts (down 12 percent) and clothing (down 1 percent).

Re-exports in the quarter were strongest to West Germany (up 45 percent), Canada (up 35 percent) and the United States, with lesser growth to Britain, Taiwan and Australia. Re-exports to China, the main outlet, declined 11 percent from the first quarter of 1989.

Most in demand among re-exports were miscellaneous manufactures (up 41 percent), clothing (up 25 percent) and telecommunications and sound equipment (up 21 percent).

Total exports in March amounted to HK$12.5 billion, up 24 percent on the

HK$13.3 billion of February, but marginally below the tally for March of last year.

Re-exports brought in HK$30.7 billion, a gain of almost 26 percent on the HK$24.4 billion of February and up 16 percent from HK$26.4 billion a year earlier.

Imports cost HK$51 billion, up 26 percent from the HK$40.4 billion of February and 5.6 percent more than the HK$48.4 billion of March 1989.

For March, the colony ran a trade deficit of HK$3.8 billion, up from HK$2.7 billion in February but down from HK$5 billion in March 1989.

The first-quarter picture shows that Hong Kong halved its deficit, to HK$3 billion, on exports of HK$46 billion (down 3 percent from a year earlier), re- exports of HK$83 billion (up 11 percent) and imports of HK$132 billion (up 2 percent).