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Israeli Current Account Deficit Widens to Most in 11 Years

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June 14 (Bloomberg) -- Israel’s current account deficit nearly doubled in the first quarter, widening to the most in more than 11 years, as the trade balance worsened.

The seasonally adjusted deficit was $1.67 billion in the three months through March, compared with a revised deficit of $858 million in the previous quarter, the Central Bureau of Statistics said in an e-mailed statement today. The deficit was the widest since the third quarter of 2000, when it reached $1.73 billion, according to the bureau’s website.

“The crisis in Europe led to a decline in the exports of goods, which was partly offset by an increase in exports of services,” the bureau said. “At the same time, there was increase in imports of both goods and services.”

Israel has maintained an annual surplus in its current account since 2003 as exports, which make up about 40 percent of gross domestic product, helped power growth of around 5 percent in most of the period. The International Monetary Fund projects a current account deficit of 1 percent of GDP this year and 0.2 percent next year, according to a April 2 report.

Israel posted a $2.6 billion deficit in the balance of trade of goods and services in the first quarter compared with a $1.2 billion shortfall in the previous quarter, the bureau said today.

Since January 2009, two major natural-gas discoveries have been made off Israel’s Mediterranean coast, the Tamar field, which may hold 8.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, and the Leviathan field, which holds an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet. The impact of the gas finds on Israel’s current-account will probably be small until 2016, and then rise to 1 percent to 1.5 percent of GDP through the next decade, according to a UBS AG report from May.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alisa Odenheimer in Jerusalem at aodenheimer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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