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Investment-related imports remain weak

The trade deficit in February came in at USD 0.8 billion, widening USD 0.2 billion over one year.  The deficit was slightly above both the Bloomberg market consensus and our call of USD 0.7 billion. Total imports (FOB) contracted 3.9% YoY (-9.1% in January), dragged mainly by manufacturing goods and fuels. Exports contracted by 10.1% YoY in February (-3.0% in January), hampered by commodity exports. As a result, the rolling 12-month trade deficit reached USD 9.6 billion, broadly stable from the 2023 deficit (USD 14.5 billion in 2022). At the margin, our seasonal adjustment shows trade deficit at USD 10.9 billion (annualized), up from the USD 8.3 billion recorded in 4Q23.

Investment-related imports remain weak, while consumer goods imports pick-up. The -3.9% YoY import contraction in February was dragged by construction materials (-24.4%), capital goods for agriculture (-23.6%), fuels (-22.5%) and transport equipment (-21.2% YoY), broadly in line with still weak investment dynamics. Imports of consumer goods rose 4.8% YoY, lifted by non-durable foods. In the quarter ending in February, imports contracted 7.1% YoY (-10.4% in 4Q23; -25.5% in 3Q23). Imports excluding fuels and transportation equipment fell 4.6% YoY (-12.5% in 4Q23; -25.6% in 3Q23).  At the margin, we estimate imports increased 17.9% qoq/saar (+13.5% in 4Q23; -21.1% in 3Q23).

Coal and oil drag exports in February. Exports contracted by 10.1%  yoy (-3.0% in January). Oil exports fell by 14% YoY (+15.6% in January), mainly due to lower prices and volumes.  Coal exports continued to decline (-35.9% YoY; -28.9% in January), mainly due to a decline in prices.  Exports excluding traditional goods (oil, coal, coffee, and ferronickel), accounting for 46.8% of total exports, increased 7.4% YoY. In the quarter ending February, exports contracted 5.8% YoY (4.6% drop in 4Q), dragged by double digit ferronickel, coal and fuels decline.  At the margin, exports fell by 9.8% qoq/saar (+18.8% in 4Q; -14.1% in 3Q). 

Our take: Weak domestic demand will support a narrow current-account deficit this year, despite underwhelming export dynamics. We expect the CAD to reach 3.0% of GDP in 2023 (2.7% in 2023).


Andrés Pérez M.

Vittorio Peretti  

Carolina Monzón

Juan Robayo