The trade balance posted a surplus of USD 1.0 billion in December, broadly in line with market expectations (as per Bloomberg) of a surplus of USD 0.8 billion. The 2022 trade balance stood at a deficit of USD 26.4 billion (wider than the 2021 trade deficit of USD 10.9 Billion), with the non-energy and energy balance at a surplus of USD 8.5 billion (from a surplus of 13.7 billion) and a deficit of USD 34.9 billion (from a deficit of USD 24.6 billion), respectively. At the margin, using three-month annualized seasonally adjusted figures, the trade balance improved to a deficit of USD 11.2 billion in 4Q22 (from a deficit of USD 26.7 billion in 3Q22), with the energy trade deficit at USD 28.1 billion (from a deficit of USD 44.1 billion), while the non-energy trade balance posted a surplus of USD 16.9 billion (from a surplus of USD 17.4 billion).
Manufacturing exports momentum weakened in 4Q22, consistent with a softer external demand. Using seasonally adjusted series, manufacturing exports registered its third consecutive contraction (-2.7% in December), dragged by both vehicle (-2.4%) and non-vehicle (-2.9%) exports. The quarter-over-quarter annualized growth rate (qoq/saar) for manufacturing exports stood at a weak -8.4% in 4Q22 (from 15.7% in 3Q22).
Non-oil imports momentum was also soft. Also using seasonally adjusted figures, non-energy imports rebounded 1.9% mom/sa in December, after falling by 3.1% in November. The qoq/saar growth rate of non-oil imports stood at -8.1% in 4Q22 (from -4.9% in 3Q22). Looking at the breakdown, the qoq/saar of non-energy consumption, intermediate and capital imports stood at -21.2% in 4Q22 (from 1.8% in 3Q22), -7.3% (from -6.6%) and 1.8% (from 2.7%), respectively.
We expect the trade deficit to deteriorate to USD 29 billion next year. The weaker global outlook will curb manufacturing exports expansion, widening the trade deficit, which will be mitigated by a slower growth of non-energy imports as internal demand softens.