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Turkey’s January Trade Gap Narrows on Year to $7 Billion

Turkey’s trade deficit narrowed to $7 billion in January, shrinking for a third consecutive month.

The shortfall declined from $7.4 billion in January 2011, the statistics office in Ankara said on its website today. The gap exceeded the expectations of all 10 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, whose median estimate was $6.4 billion. It was $8.1 billion in December.

The central bank said yesterday it expects a “gradual” improvement in the current-account deficit, the widest measure of trade in goods and services, because of measures to slow import demand and help exporters cope with a weaker lira. Concern about the deficit helped the lira depreciate 18 percent last year, the biggest drop among emerging market currencies.

“The monthly deficit is lower than January last year, which indicates that the correction in the external balance is continuing although it is slower than we expected,” Inan Demir, chief economist at Finansbank AS in Istanbul, said by e-mail. “Energy prices seem to have played a big part here with energy imports rising by 26 percent annually.”

Exports rose an annual 8.6 percent to $10.4 billion while imports gained 2.8 percent to $17.4 billion, the office said.

Energy made up 22 percent of Turkish imports last year, or $54.1 billion, according to the statistics office. The country gets 97 percent of the energy it consumes from abroad, data in a strategy document published on the Energy Ministry’s website show.

The current-account deficit may narrow to $4 billion in January, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said in a Feb. 20 interview with NTV news channel in Ankara.

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