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Imports weakness compensated the contraction of exports during the month.
2023/12/07 | Andrés Pérez M., Vittorio Peretti & Ignacio Martinez Labra

A trade surplus of USD 1.3 billion was registered in November, above Bloomberg market consensus of USD 1.1 and our USD 1.0 billion call, as weakness in imports compensated the contraction of exports during the month. The November surplus is a significant increase from the USD 0.4 billion surplus one year ago. Total exports fell 4% YoY (-4.3% in October), with all divisions falling in the month (Mining: -3.3%; Agriculture: -8%; Industrial: -4.9%). The total mining contraction was led by lithium (down 46%), only partially offset by an increase in copper exports of 3.8% YoY. Meanwhile, total imports contracted 15.4 % YoY (+2% in October), driven mostly by falling energy imports (-26% YoY). However, the declines in the imports of consumer goods (-12%) and capital items (-18%) also contributed to the negative result, reflecting overall weakness of domestic demand amid tight financial conditions.


During the rolling-quarter, the capital imports decline was in line with other indicators that suggest investment dynamics should continue to underwhelm. Exports contracted 5.5% in the quarter ending in November (-6.7% in 3Q23). Total mining dropped 5.6% (-6.1% in 3Q) as the lithium drag remained significant (contracting 38%). Manufacturing exports fell 4.9% (-7.8% in 3Q23). Sequentially, exports increased 0.1% qoq/saar (+11% in October). On the other hand, total imports contracted 11.9% during the rolling-quarter (-18% in 3Q23). Consumer goods imports fell 11.3% (-19.4% in 3Q23). Meanwhile, capital goods imports contracted 16.6% (deeper than the -12.9% in 3Q23). At the margin, imports fell 2.6% qoq/saar (+0.3% in October). 


We expect a CAD of 3.6% of GDP for this year (from 9.0% last year), and 3.8% next year. Overall, the 12-month rolling trade surplus sits at an elevated USD 16 billion, significantly above the USD 3.8 billion in 2022. While activity data at the margin has exceeded expectations, the economy remains weak and domestic demand pressures are contained, aiding the narrowing of external imbalances.