Juan Carlos Barboza & Diego Ciongo
The trade balance showed a deficit of USD 0.5 billion in January, down from a surplus of USD 0.3 billion in the same month of 2022. The 12-month rolling trade surplus narrowed to USD 6.1 billion in January, from USD 6.9 billion in December 2022. At the margin, the seasonally adjusted annualized balance showed a surplus of USD 6.3 billion in the quarter ended in January (from a surplus of USD 13.3 billion in 4Q22).
Exports declined during the quarter ended in January due falling wheat exports. Total exports decreased by 1.2% yoy, after a gain of 7.5% in 4Q22, led by lower wheat exports affected by drought. Agricultural exports, including manufactured agricultural products, decreased by 4.6% yoy in the quarter (from growth of 6.7% yoy in 4Q22). Exports of other industrial products increased by 3.8% yoy in the quarter ended in January (from 6.1% in 4Q22), led by cars. On a sequential basis, exports fell by 26.6% qoq/saar in January, from an increase of 8.4% in the quarter ended in December.
Imports continued to fall in the quarter ended in January, affected by controls. Total imports decreased by 6.3% yoy in the period (from -2.3% yoy in 4Q22) and by 21.9% qoq/saar (from a drop of 44.4% in 4Q22). Imports of intermediate goods fell by 13.8% yoy, while imports of capital goods and parts decreased by 0.2% yoy. Consumer goods (including cars) imports dropped by 4.8% yoy in the period.
The deficit in the energy trade balance widened during the first month of the year. The last 12-month deficit increased to USD 5.4 billion, from USD 5.0 billion in 2022. Energy imports increased by 1.9% yoy in the quarter ended in January, while oil exports increased by 2.4% yoy in the period.
We forecast a trade surplus of USD 7.0 billion for 2023, with downside risks from a likely severe drought.
Juan Carlos Barboza