Israel foreign trade deficit widens 10.4% in 2019 to $23.74 billion

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s foreign trade deficit grew 10.4% to $23.74 billion in 2019 amid a drop in exports, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Monday.

Exports -- which account for about 30% of Israel’s economic activity -- fell 4.2 last year, led by a nearly 14% drop in high tech exports, while goods imports excluding ships, aircraft, diamonds and fuel rose 1%, the bureau said.

Exporters have suffered from a strong shekel, which appreciated 8.3% last year against a basket of currencies of Israel’s main trading partners.

In December, the trade deficit widened to $3.04 billion from $966 million in November and $2 billion in December 2018.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch