According to the CBR, the trade surplus in March continued edging down slightly from the record high in 2mo12 (USD 20.7bn in January and USD 20.3bn in February), to USD 19.4bn. Exports were up only 5.4% MoM and 9.9% YoY to USD 48bn. Merchandise imports increased 13.1% MoM, and 5.9% YoY, to USD 28.5bn.
The trade balance increased to USD 60.5bn in 1Q12, from USD 54.2bn in 4Q11. Meanwhile, last quarter’s growth in exports of goods decelerated to 18.2% YoY, from 27.4% YoY in 4Q11, and imports growth slowed down to 12.7% YoY in 1Q12, compared with 18.3% YoY in the previous quarter.
Although the March trade balance was slightly less than in the previous three months, it is still strong. The low pace of growth in both exports and imports in March is not a cause for concern, given the high base effect. We expect the current account surplus to shrink, taking into account seasonal dynamics and the fact that imports are likely to be supported by the rather strong RUB and income growth in the near term.
Given that the CBR bought USD 4.3bn on the FX market in March (vs. USD 2.8bn in the previous month) and the trade balance in March was softer than in February, we expect capital outflows to moderate in March.
Hence, we are reiterating our end-year USD/RUB forecast at 31.0.
Dmitri Fedotkin, Alexey Moiseev, Aleksandra Evtifyeva, Daria Isakova
VTB Capital analyst
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