Antwerp's polished diamond exports in May surged by 62% compared to April and increased 5% year-over-year, according to data from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), as the Belgian polished trade continues its modest 2018 climb. Polished exports rose to $1.18 billion from April, which achieved only $728.2 million, and outstripped May 2017 exports by $56.5 million. The rise was backed by a 13% increase over April in the number of carats exported, and a 4% increase compared to the same month a year ago. Imports of polished diamonds to Belgium increased by nearly 16% compared to April, at $996 million, which represents a less than 1% drop year-over-year. For the year thus far, the polished trade has seen the slightest of increases over the first five months of 2017, as polished exports have increased by 0.64% to $5.09 billion, with an increase in volume of just 0.2% to 2.11 million carats; imports have risen 0.74 % to $5.02 billion, on a 4.3% increase in volume.
Results during the month of May were a mixed bag for the rough trade, with notable declines year-over-year, but a rise in exports compared to the previous month. The value of rough imports in May fell by 9% compared to last month and 14% on the year to $905 million, with a 24% drop in volume to 6.7 million carats. For the first five months of the year to date, however, rough imports have risen by 7.5% to $5.02 billion, on a 1% increase in volume to 41.5 million carats. Rough exports increased by 12% compared to April, but declined by nearly 5% y-o-y, with a value of $1.18 billion on the export of 11.9 million carats, an 8% drop from May 2017. For the year to date, rough exports have risen by 6.4% to $5.76 billion despite flat volume exports (+0.27%), which now stand at 55.77 million carats.
The figures from Antwerp appear to confirm what analysts have been saying for several months now, as the volume of the rough diamond trade to and from Antwerp has been nearly equivalent to the first five months a year ago (41 million cts imported, 56 million carats exported), but the prices of those rough stones have increased by approximately 7% on imports and 6% on exports. The same cannot be said for the polished trade, as the prices earned for exports ticked up by a mere 0.5%, while the price of polished imports are down by 3.5%. This disconnect is starting to put pressure on the margins of midstream traders.