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Chile Unexpectedly Posts July Trade Deficit on Fewer Exports

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Chile in July unexpectedly posted its second trade deficit of the year on falling exports and an increase in imports.

The deficit was $95 million while the median estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a surplus of $362.5 million. Exports fell 3.8 percent from last year to $6.1 billion and imports increased 1.3 percent to $6.2 billion, the central bank said in a report today. Chile, the world’s top copper producer, exported $3.3 billion of the metal last month, down 3.3 percent from the same period last year.

While the Andean nation’s dependence on raw material exports makes it vulnerable to Europe’s debt crisis and China’s deceleration, economic growth has proved more resilient than expected and accelerated from the second half of 2011. Now, evidence is mounting that the expansion will cool, Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said yesterday.

“There is no guarantee we can continue growing and creating jobs at the rate we’ve seen in past months,” he said in a statement posted on the ministry website. “The Chilean economy will decelerate in the second half of the year. The effects of the external crisis are arriving to our country through a lower copper price and reduced exports to Europe.”

Chile’s peso gained 0.3 percent to 476.40 per U.S. dollar at 10:51 a.m. Santiago time.

Forecasts

Chile will post a $5 billion trade surplus this year, down from $10.8 billion in 2011, as exports slip 2.6 percent, the central bank said in its latest policy report published in June. Imports will increase 5.2 percent to $74 billion in 2012, the bank said.

Chile had a trade surplus of $4.6 billion in the first seven months of this year, the central bank said today.

The average price of copper will decline 11 percent to $3.55 a pound in 2012 from $4.00 last year, according to the bank’s forecasts. The metal has averaged $3.64 a pound so far this year.

The economy expanded 5.5 percent in the first half of 2012 from 4.1 percent in the second half of last year, according to calculations made by Bloomberg based on central bank data. Gross domestic product expanded 6 percent in 2011 and will climb 4 percent to 5 percent this year, according to central bank forecasts.

“The deceleration is quite moderate, quite limited,” central bank President Rodrigo Vergara told an economic forum in Santiago today. “However, we expect a greater deceleration in the second part of the year. While it’s true we sustain terms of trade that are relatively high from a historical perspective, it’s also true they have declined.”

Gross domestic product will climb 4.5 percent this year, according to the median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The global economy will grow at about half the pace this year, climbing 2.17 percent, according to a separate poll of analysts.

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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