Exports, re-exports and imports through Hong Kong all fell sharply in February for the second straight month, the Census and Statistics Department said Thursday.

Against that, the figures are running substantially ahead of a year earlier, the agency said.Exports in February came to HK$13.6 billion (US$1.74 billion), down 17 percent from January's HK$16.4 billion (US$2.1 billion). But they were up 36 percent from February 1987's HK$9.9 billion (US$1.27 billion).

Re-exports in February this year amounted to HK$15.9 billion (US$2.04 billion), down 13 percent from the HK$18 billion (US$2.31 billion) of January. Year-on-year, they were up 49 percent on the HK$10 billion (US$1.28 billion) of February 1987.

Imports also declined last month, possibly foreshadowing a slowing in the economy overall since Hong Kong must import almost everything it uses.

They totaled HK$28.4 billion (US$3.64 billion), down 14 percent from the HK$33 billion (US$4.23 billion) of January. Compared with February a year ago, however, they were up 18 percent from HK$24 billion (US$3.1 billion).

For the first two months of the year, Hong Kong exports are running 25 percent ahead of last year, re-exports are up 51 percent, and imports are 29 percent higher.

That puts overall trade into surplus by HK$2.7 billion (US$1.5 billion) for the first two months, compared with a deficit of HK$969 million (US$124.2 million) at the same stage in 1987.

The market breakdown of imports and exports for February won't be available until next month, but the United States is Hong Kong's largest market and fourth-ranked supplier.