Andrés Pérez M., Vittorio Peretti & Ignacio Martinez Labra
A reduced copper export drag, along with falling imports led to another large trade surplus in February. A trade surplus of USD 2 billion was registered in February, representing a significant improvement from the USD 139 million deficit a year earlier. The trade surplus was broadly in line Bloomberg market consensus and our call. Total exports rose 14.2% YoY (4.2% previously), lifted by manufacturing and agriculture goods (both components with +22% YoY). Mining increased 8.5%, due to lithium sales, while copper drag eased (-4.2% YoY versus -22% in January). On the other hand, total imports shrunk 15% YoY (similar to the drop in January), dragged by consumer goods (-27%), while capital goods also fell in line with the outlook of weak growth ahead. Overall, the 12-month rolling trade surplus rose to USD 6.6 billion from USD 2.9 billion in 2022, but remains below the USD 10.5 billion during 2021 and USD 19.0 billion in 2020. At the margin, our seasonal adjustment shows a trade surplus rising to USD 21.8 billion in the quarter (annualized; USD 10.6 billion surplus in 4Q22 and USD 2.1 billion in 3Q22).
In the quarter ending in February, exports rose by 5.3% YoY, the first positive print since the quarter ending in August last year. Total mining exports fell 0.6% YoY (8.1% down in 4Q22) with copper sales contracting 13.2% YoY, but reducing its drag from previous periods (-21% YoY in 4Q22). Again lithium exports registered upbeat results, totaling around USD 2.1 billion in the quarter, up from the USD 0.7 billion in the same period last year. Manufacturing exports rose 11.7% (5.2% in 4Q22). Sequentially, exports increased 30.7% qoq/saar (-2.9% in 4Q22).
Imports continue to trend down. Imports decreased 16.3% YoY during the quarter ending in February (-11.3% in 4Q22). Consumer goods imports fell 29% (25.6% down in 4Q), with durable goods imports falling 35%. Capital goods imports fell 7.2% YoY, similar drop to 4Q22. Meanwhile, the energy imports contracted for the first time since early 2021. At the margin, imports fell 35% qoq/saar, similar to the fall in 4Q22. Excluding energy, imports fell 23% qoq/saar (26% decline in 4Q), confirming the view of a domestic demand adjustment unfolding during the year.
Still high copper prices and slowing domestic demand will support a CAD correction this year from around 8% of GDP estimated for 2022 to near 4% this year.
Andrés Pérez M.
Ignacio Martinez Labra