The foreign trade data released yesterday by the INDEC They confirmed what broad sectors of the industry had been warning about and which the Central Bank denied: the strong restrictions imposed on imports since the last week of June, imposed to minimize the outflow of dollars, hit production hard. This despite the fact that they barely served to moderate the total volume of purchases abroad, which fell by just USD 337 million last month compared to the previous one. The figure represents a drop of only 4%, going from USD 8,547 million to USD 8,210 million.
To achieve this minimum reduction or, better said, avoid a leap that would multiply the trade deficit figure reported yesterday, the Government chose to sacrifice the income of those goods that are imported to keep the economy going and, in the best of cases, to make it grow. According to official figures, The only two items in which the level of imports fell compared to June were capital goods, that is, imports of machinery, tools or computers, and intermediate goods. In this last category are all those inputs that are applied to the production of another final good. In both cases, the decline was around 15% compared to the previous month and, although they maintained growth compared to the same period last year, the rate of year-on-year growth was drastically reduced.
On the other hand, both the import of (final) consumer goods and that of automobiles remained stable while, as expected, the energy import account increased, rising to USD 2,281 million, 17% more than in June and 281% more than last year.
The commercial exchange statistics is, in short, the concrete example of the metaphor of the short blanket: If the available dollars were granted to importers so as not to slow down production, the lack of energy for industries -and eventually for homes- could have been much greater. The Government, on the other hand, preferred to allocate the dollars to pay for energy to avoid shortages that, in any case, would have also affected production..
Lost for lost, the Minister of the Economy, Sergio Massa, admitted last week that “we decided to release the reserves a little to guarantee energy.” That decision was clearly reflected in the statistics that INDEC released yesterday and that are in line with the projections of economists and private market consultants that indicate that the economy began the second half of the year in recession. This outlook has no prospect of substantially improving despite the fact that the Central Bank is enthusiastic about the positive balance of USD 150 million obtained yesterday and dare to predict that the bad taste of energy is over, leaving behind what they call “the worst moment in the relationship demand for dollars vs. offer of foreign currency by liquidation”.
Private analysts agree only partially. “As of now, fuel imports are expected to have already reached their maximum and begin to decline progressively, although high levels will be observed this month and next,” anticipates the report on foreign trade data from the consulting firm LCG. In it, a central point stands out: “Given the shortage of foreign currency, the adjustment will continue to be suffered by the rest of imports, which must seek financing abroad in order to maintain the levels that have been observedthis cut will continue to have direct consequences on domestic activity and prices”.
In this sense, LCG estimates that despite the record level of settlement of the field during the first part of the year, largely due to the very high level of international prices, this year’s trade surplus will close around USD 7,000 million, which represents a reduction of 55% compared to that reached in 2021 and that “it does not end up translating into an increase in international reserves.”