The monthly GDP proxy (IMACEC) fell 0.5% over twelve months in February (+0.1% rise in December), with mining the key drag. The 0.5% drop was below both the Bloomberg market consensus and our call of a null variation (Central Bank analyst survey: -0.2%). In monthly terms, activity fell by 0.3% from January (SA), partially reverting the 1.6% increase in January with most of the decline driven by weaker mining (3.1% sequential fall). Non-mining IMACEC rose 0.1% sequentially (SA; +1.6% in January), with commerce rising 0.3% (SA), while services ex-commerce dropped 0.2% (+2.8% mom/sa in January). Overall, the February data continues to point to an economy that is adjusting gradually from above potential levels.
Activity improved sequentially. Activity fell 0.9% yoy during the quarter ending in February, moderating from the 2.3% drop in 4Q22. Non-mining contracted 1.1% (2.4% fall in 4Q22), with services (excluding commerce) increasing 0.9% (0.1% drop in 4Q22), while the commerce drag eased to 4.9% (-8.2% in 4Q22). Manufacturing contracted 1.9% (5.8% drop in 4Q). At the margin, total activity increased 1.3% qoq/saar (0% in 4Q22). Non-mining activity increased 2.4% qoq/saar (-1.9% in 4Q).
Business confidence remains low. Think-tank ICARE’s non-mining business confidence during March came in at 38.2 points (50 = neutral; 37.2 in February), still around 10pp below average levels prior to the social unrest and pandemic. At the margin, commerce sentiment is improving, while construction remains low. Overall, business sentiment completed 14 months in pessimistic ground.
The gradual correction in economic activity is unfolding. While the downside surprise in the year-on-year change is a negative surprise, the seasonally adjusted non-mining IMACEC, a better measure to capture the underlying trend of the business cycle, increased in the month consistent with the view of the gradual adjustment of the economy. We expect a GDP contraction of 0.7% this year (2.4% last year), with risks tilted to a smaller contraction.
Andrés Pérez M.
Ignacio Martinez Labra