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Chilean Trade Surplus Narrows to $626 Million in February

March 7 (Bloomberg) -- Chile’s trade surplus narrowed to $626 million in February from the same month last year on a surge in imports, the central bank said.

Imports leaped 18 percent to $5.69 billion, while exports gained 10 percent $6.32 billion, including $3.37 billion of copper, the bank said in a report posted on its website today. The surplus compared with the $675 million median estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg and $926 million a year ago.

The top copper-producing nation’s trade surplus will more than half this year as the average price of the metal drops 13 percent to $3.50 a pound, the central bank said in December. Average copper prices have exceeded that level so far this year and the government has raised its price forecast to $3.85 a pound on an improved outlook for the global economy.

“We’re in a phase of deceleration that is somewhat softer than what was forecast some months ago,” Finance Minister Felipe Larrain told reporters in Santiago March 5. “We have to closely follow what’s happening abroad because a good performance in one month doesn’t guarantee that we’re going to continue like that for the rest of the year.”

Larrain spoke after data showed the economy surged a faster-than-forecast 5.5 percent in January from the previous year. Economic growth, measured by the central bank’s Imacec index, has exceeded the median estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg in the past two months.

Europe’s economy, which accounted for 20 percent of Chilean exports last year, will contract 0.2 percent this year after growing an estimated 1.5 percent in 2011, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg. The region was Chile’s fastest-growing export market in 2011.

Chile’s peso deprecated 0.2 percent to 492.13 per U.S. dollar at 8:56 a.m. Santiago time from 491.25 at yesterday’s 1:30 p.m. close.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.

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