Mexico January Trade Deficit Surged to Widest Since 2008

Mexico reported its biggest trade deficit since November 2008 on falling exports, supporting expectations that policy makers will cut the benchmark interest rate this year for the first time in four years.

The trade deficit widened to $2.9 billion last month from $273.5 million a year earlier, the national statistics agency said in a preliminary report published today on its website. The gap surprised all 11 economists in a Bloomberg survey, whose median estimate was for a $216 million surplus. Exports fell 0.2 percent from a year earlier, the first drop since June.

Latin America’s second-biggest economy has been posting worse-than-expected results, with retail sales falling 1.8 percent in December, industrial output shrinking for the first time in three years and January’s unemployment rate rising more than estimated by all 16 analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Today’s report backs economists’ forecasts that the central bank will cut its 4.5 percent benchmark rate, said Gabriel Lozano, chief Mexico economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“Data in December wasn’t good at all and today’s number definitely adds to some concerns about the speed of the recovery,” Lozano said in a telephone interview from Mexico City. “It supports the call for a cut in the next few months.”

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect Mexico’s economy to grow 3.5 percent this year after expanding 3.9 percent in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net

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