A trade surplus of USD 1.1 billion was registered in April, significantly above the USD 0.1 billion surplus of last year, but below Bloomberg market consensus of USD 1.9 billion and our USD 2.0 billion call. Exports were weak in the month, dragged down by mining, particularly lithium. Total exports fell 3.1% YoY (13.1% increase in March) as mining fell 6.9% YoY (21.9% YoY increase in March). While copper sales rose 3.1%, lithium fell (45.4% drop) for the first time since June 2021. Weak exports were offset by the double-digit decline in imports, as the domestic demand adjustment continues. Total imports dropped 17.2% YoY (17.3% drop in March), dragged down by consumer (-25.6% YoY) and intermediate goods (-21.9% YoY). Capital imports were flat from last year (lifted by mining machinery and cargo vehicles). Overall, the 12-month rolling trade surplus rose to USD 11.3 billion, from USD 3.8 billion in 2022. At the margin, our seasonal adjustment shows the trade surplus at a large USD 21.2 billion in the quarter ending in April (annualized; USD 25.4 billion in 1Q23; USD 13.5 billion surplus in 4Q22).
Reduced copper drag lifted export growth in the quarter. Exports rose by 8.4% during the quarter ending in April (10.7% rise in 1Q23). Total mining exports rose 8.6% (+8.4% in 1Q23), with copper sales rising a mild 0.3%, reducing its drag from previous periods (-6% in 1Q23), while the pull from lithium exports moderates. Manufacturing exports rose 8.9% in the quarter (12.3% in 4Q22), lifted by chemical production. Sequentially, exports increased 22% qoq/saar (+32.1% in 1Q23).
Consumer goods imports continue to trend down. Imports contracted 16.5% during the quarter ending in April (-16.2% in 1Q23). Consumer goods imports fell 31.7%, with durable goods imports falling 36%. Capital goods imports fell 7.9% YoY (-11% in 1Q23). Meanwhile, energy imports decreased 4.9%, swinging from the 2% rise in 1Q23, as global oil prices fall. At the margin, imports fell 6.3% qoq/saar (-22% in 1Q23). Excluding energy, imports fell a milder -0.6% qoq/saar (19% drop in 1Q).
The expected domestic demand adjustment, along with high copper prices and lower global transportation fees, is consistent with a significant CAD correction this year, to 3.8% of GDP, from 9.0% last year.
Andrés Pérez M.
Ignacio Martinez Labra