The trade deficit at the start of the year reached USD 1.5 billion, narrowing by USD 0.2 billion over one year. The result was above the Bloomberg market consensus of USD 1.3 billion, but in line with our call. As a result, the rolling 12-month trade deficit reached USD 14.2 billion (USD 14.4 billion in 2022; USD 15.3 billion in 2021). Total imports (FOB) contracted 5.7% yoy (3.8% contraction in December), while exports contracted 2.8% yoy in January (1.0% fall in December). At the margin, the quarterly seasonally adjusted trade deficit reached USD 12.2 billion (annualized); narrowing from USD 13 billion recorded in 4Q (USD 17.1 in 3Q22) as imports gradually weaken.
Imports continue to fall sequentially. Total imports (FOB) during the first month of the year were dragged by transportation equipment (-36.6% yoy) and intermediate agricultural goods (-20.3% yoy). In the quarter ending in January, imports contracted 7.3% yoy (-2.9% in 4Q22 and +32% in 3Q22). Imports excluding fuels and transportation equipment fell 12% yoy ( 8.5% contraction in 4Q; +22% in 3Q22). At the margin, we estimate that imports fell 43.4% qoq/saar, similar to the drop registered in 4Q22 (+3.0% in 3Q22).
The commodity drag continues to hinder exports. Exports remained weak with a 2.8% yoy decline (1.0% down in December). Exports excluding traditional goods (oil, coal, coffee, and ferronickel), accounting for the 38.4% of the total, expanded 3.0% yoy (-2.1% in December). The oil export drag persisted (-19.2% yoy, -6.1% from December) with a decline in both prices and volumes. The slowing oil exports were partially compensated by double-digit growth of coal exports (boosted by prices). In the quarter ending January, export growth moderated to 3.2% yoy (from 7.4% in 4Q22 and 41.9% in 3Q22). At the margin, exports contracted 16.6% qoq/saar (39.6% decline in 4Q22; 25.6% down in 3Q22), dragged by oil but countered by coal exports.
We expect a CAD of 4.4% of GDP for 2023 (6.2% in 2022). The expected slowdown of domestic demand and COP weakness would support a gradual CAD moderation this year.