Chile Reverses 3 Months of Deficits With Oct. Trade Surplus

Chile in October posted its first trade surplus in four months as surging exports, including an increase in copper sales abroad, offset record imports.

The surplus totaled $70 million as exports rose 10 percent from last year to $7.32 billion, with copper shipments rising to almost a two-year high of $4.44 billion, the central bank said in a report posted on its website today. Imports leaped 26 percent to a record $7.25 billion over the same period.

While the global economic slowdown has had a tenuous impact on Chile, the nation’s exports still have slipped 4.5 percent this year on weaker commodity prices. A further decline in copper prices, coupled with the “dynamic” growth of consumer spending, threaten to widen Chile’s current account deficit and put the economy at risk, central bank President Rodrigo Vergara said yesterday.

“If the current account deficit grows or persists more, odds also increase that a deterioration of the external scenario would impact internal conditions with more force,” Vergara told an economic forum in Santiago. “It’s everybody’s task to moderate spending.”

Retail sales grew 8.4 percent in the first nine months of this year from 2011, according to calculations made by Bloomberg based on government data.

Chile’s current account deficit will expand to 3.2 percent of gross domestic product this year from 1.3 percent in 2011 as imports climb 4 percent, according to central bank forecasts published in September. The trade surplus will shrink to $4.2 billion from $10.8 billion over the same period, it said.

Copper prices will fall 11 percent this year from 2011 before dropping another 4.2 percent in 2013, according to central bank forecasts. Prices of the metal are down 9.5 percent in 2012 from last year’s average.

Chile’s peso, which has gained 8.6 percent against the U.S. dollar this year, rose 0.1 percent against the dollar to 478.64 per dollar at 8:41 a.m. Santiago time.

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