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The U.S. trades with Cuba?

Some exceptions to the embargo

Yes, there is U.S. trade with Cuba despite the embargo, as the graph above shows. The vast majority of the trade is U.S. exports to Cuba, especially since 2002, mainly in the form of agricultural goods and medication. The U.S. government relaxed the embargo for humanitarian purposes in 2000, but Cuba started to take advantage of this only in November 2001, after Hurricane Michelle. If you look closely along the black horizontal line, you’ll see there is also a little trade from Cuba to the U.S. Although it’s zero in almost every month, a few months do show Cuban exports: from a low of $2,060 (July 2009) to a high of $775,000 (August 2018). And we feel we can depend on the precision of these statistics, especially because this trade is subject to official U.S. government authorization.

How this graph was created: Search for “Cuba imports,” select the “U.S. Imports of Goods by Customs Basis from Cuba” series, and click “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for “Cuba exports” and select “U.S. Exports of Goods by F.A.S. Basis to Cuba.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: EXP2390, IMP2390

Just the facts, ma’am

Embracing seasonality in national accounts data

Usually, if you have the choice, you want to look at macroeconomic data that have been seasonally adjusted. This adjustment lets you compare periods within any year without being misled by the various fluctuations that occur every year. Ice cream production, tourism, and toy purchases, for example, all have predictable seasonal factors, and usually we’re interested in what happens beyond these seasonal effects.

The same logic applies to aggregate measures such as gross domestic product (GDP). But, occasionally, we just want the raw data. All three GDP components shown in the graph above consistently dip in the first quarter. In most of the country, the winter months hinder activities such as residential construction and local government infrastructure projects. As for the dip in imports, that’s linked to the dips described above, because general declines in activity are definitely reflected in imports.

How this graph was created: From the gross domestic product release, go to section 8 (not seasonally adjusted); then choose the table with real GDP, select the relevant series, and click “Add to Graph.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: ND000338Q, ND000343Q, ND000351Q

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