Mexico's September merchandise trade balance showed a
seasonally-adjusted surplus of $604.4 million, after a revised
surplus of $552.6 million in August. That marked the first
time since early 2012 that the country's exports exceeded its
imports for two straight months. The value of Mexican exports
fell to $32.060 billion during September, down 1.3% from the
previous month, but that was not enough to reverse the revised
increases of 2.2% in August, 1.1% in July, and 0.9% in June.
The trade surplus expanded in September because imports fell more
than exports. Mexico's September imports fell 1.5% to a level
of $31.456 billion. On an unadjusted basis, Mexican exports
in September were up 7.2% from the same month one year earlier,
while imports were up 5.7%.
Manufactured goods make up the vast majority of Mexico's
merchandise exports, and in September, they were up 11.8%
year-over-year. The major manufactured exports showing the
biggest increases were steel, autos and auto parts, and
professional and scientific equipment. Exports of autos and
auto parts alone were up 23.0% year-over-year. Crude oil and
other petroleum products are the second-most important category of
Mexican exports, and they were down 11.7% year-over-year in
September. Within this category, Mexican crude oil exports
averaged just 1.195 million barrels per day, down 10.8% from
September 2012, while the average export price for Mexican crude
fell to $100.45 per barrel, down 1.6% from one year earlier.
Finally, Mexican agriculture exports in September were up 2.0%
year-over-year. Among the agricultural exports posting the
best performances, tomato exports were up 34.2%, and avocado
exports were up 26.2%. Among the agricultural exports posting
the worst performances, coffee exports were down 54.4%, and frozen
shrimp exports were down 45.1%.
The report was released today by INEGI, the official statistics
Comment: The September trade
figures suggest Mexico still has a chance to avoid recession, even
though several other indicators point to a faltering economy.
Importantly, Mexican exports appear to remain on a slight upward
trend, in spite of the pullback in September. Nevertheless,
plenty of caution is warranted. A report earlier this week
showed that the country's retail sales fell sharply in August,
erasing all of their gains in the previous three months. A
report last week showed unemployment rose in September, so consumer
demand could stay soft for at least a while longer.
Meanwhile, manufacturing activity has cooled, construction has
fallen sharply, government spending is tight, and decision makers
all across the economy are worried that fiscal battles in the
United States could undermine demand north of the border in the
coming months. It will still take a bit longer to see whether
the Mexican economy can keep growing, or whether it will stage a
modest and temporary decline.
Patrick Fearon, CFA
Vice President, Fund Management