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Chile $1.98 Billion January Trade Surplus Exceeds Forecasts

Chile, the world’s leading copper producer, had a wider-than-forecast trade surplus of $1.98 billion in January as exports of the metal increased.

Imports climbed 18 percent to $5.66 billion from a year ago and exports rose 11 percent to $7.64 billion, including $4.17 billion in copper, the central bank said in a report posted on its website today. The median estimate of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a $1.15 billion surplus.

The surplus will narrow in 2012 compared with last year as imports rise and metal prices decline, according to central bank forecasts. Domestic production can’t meet surging demand, Alfredo Coutino, Latin America director at Moody’s Analytics, wrote yesterday.

“The economy seems to be entering the second phase of overheating, when the excess demand is no longer satisfied by national production but rather by price increases and imports,” he wrote in an e-mailed report. “This explains not only the upward inflation trend but also the acceleration of imports as a ratio of GDP.”

Chile’s peso fell 0.4 percent to 481.85 per U.S. dollar at 9 a.m. Santiago time from 480.05 yesterday.

Gross domestic product expanded an estimated 6.3 percent last year and will grow between 4 percent and 5 percent in 2012 as the global slowdown damps demand for exports, acting Finance Minister Julio Dittborn told reporters in Santiago yesterday.

Inflation surged to 4.4 percent in December, breaching the upper limit of the central bank target on gains in food and drink prices as well as utilities, transport and education, the National Statistics Institute said in a Jan. 6 report.

Chilean wages increased 6.3 percent in December from the previous year and 1.2 percent from November, which was the fastest gain since December 2008, the National Statistics Institute said in a report today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Randall Woods in Santiago at rwoods13@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Sanders at psanders@bloomberg.net.

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