Turkey’s trade deficit narrowed less than expected in November as imports increased for the first time since May, indicating a pickup in economic activity.
The gap was $7.16 billion in the month, bigger than the $6 billion median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of five economists. The deficit fell from $7.57 billion a year earlier, the Turkish statistics office in Ankara said on its website today. Imports rose 13 percent to $21 billion, the biggest increase since October 2011. Exports rose 25 percent to $13.8 billion.
“November marks the turnaround in the trade deficit,” Sengul Dagdeviren, chief economist at ING Bank in Istanbul, said by phone yesterday before the figures were released. Imports of investment and intermediate goods increased, “the first time we have seen this since 2011, when the central began tightening,” she said today.
Turkey’s central bank tightened monetary policy in the first half of the year to tame inflation and curb a consumer credit boom that pulled in imports and drove the current-account deficit to $77 billion last year. Governor Erdem Basci has gradually lowered rates since the end of May as growth declined. Growth was 3 percent in the second quarter and 1.6 percent in the third, the slowest in three years.
Exports were driven by gold exports to Iran and the United Arab Emirates, which were $1.2 billion in November. Last month Turkey exported $1.5 billion. Precious metal exports have surged to $15.5 billion this year amid tighter international sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program. In the first eleven months of last year, Turkey exported $3.7 billion in precious metals.
“Strong export performance is amplified again with ongoing gold exports to Iran through UAE,” Ozgur Altug, chief economist at BGC Partners in Istanbul, said today in an e-mailed report.
The stronger export performance was also partly due to a higher number of work days in November when compared to the same month last year due to a religious holiday in November 2011. The Eid al-Adha holiday is based on a lunar calendar and shifts back about 10 or 11 days every year, putting it in October this year.
Turkey has diversified its exports away from the crisis-hit European Union, its largest trading partner, to the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The share of the EU in Turkey’s exports fell to 42 percent from 45 percent a year earlier.
“Turkey’s diversification of export markets has been quite successful,” Ozan Gaziturk, an economist at Istanbul-based lender Sekerbank TAS, said by telephone yesterday. “For the past four or five years, the EU share in exports has declined, and Turkey has done a good job in finding new markets.”
The lira fell 0.2 percent to 1.7920 against the dollar at 11:23 a.m. in Istanbul. Yields on benchmark two-year bonds increased one basis point to 6.17 percent.