Chile Unexpectedly Posts Jan. Trade Surplus as Exports Surge

Chile posted a $244 million trade surplus last month, surprising analysts who had forecast a deficit, as exports and imports surged.

Exports rose 7.4 percent from the year earlier to $6.93 billion, while imports leaped 19 percent to $6.68 billion, the central bank said in a report today. The median estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a deficit of $120 million.

Imports will continue to increase this year as sales abroad weaken, giving the Andean nation a $1.05 billion trade deficit for 2013, according to the central bank’s latest forecasts. The current account deficit will expand to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product from 3.8 percent last year, the bank estimated.

“The central bank is certainly concerned with the widening of the current account deficit but that needs to be addressed in coordination with other policies, namely fiscal,” Alberto Ramos, an economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., wrote in a note to investors on Feb. 1.

While the central bank has kept borrowing costs unchanged at 5 percent for 12 straight monthly meetings, the government last quarter cut back on planned expenditures to help cool the economy, Budget Director Rosanna Costa told reporters in Santiago on Jan. 30.

Fiscal spending in the world’s top copper producer grew about 4.7 percent above inflation in 2012, down from estimates made in October for a 6.3 percent increase, Costa said.

Copper Exports

Chile exported $3.47 billion in copper last month, up 8.5 percent from the year earlier, the central bank said today.

Policy makers will monitor the current account gap, which threatens to create vulnerabilities if demand for Chilean exports falls faster than estimated, the central bank board said in the Dec. 18 quarterly report accompanying its latest forecasts.

Borrowing costs will increase a quarter-point by December after remaining unchanged for at least the next five months, according to analysts surveyed by the central bank on Jan. 9.

The peso, which has gained 1.6 against the U.S. dollar in the past six months, rose by less than 0.1 percent to 472.60 per dollar at 8:40 a.m. Santiago time.

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