The customs data hints that this week’s trade statistics from the CBR might show a weaker than expected trade balance, at below USD 12.5bn. Exports in August (according to customs) were below the July figure, despite strong Brent prices since July. On the other hand, imports declined despite robust car imports, but were depressed by a weak reading in investment goods and volatile components imports (especially, planes and ships). A temporary increase in car imports during the month was likely connected with the WTO accession which was not immediately followed by the scrappage fee.
Data concerning September imports excluding the CIS support this idea: in one month, car imports went from USD 4.1bn to USD 2.9bn and from +37.8% to -9.6% YoY. In addition to the car story, we point out the weak numbers on imports of investment goods (-2.4% YoY) which implies that the recent trend of poor growth in investment expenditures likely continued in September. That is supported by the first evidence that corporate lending growth kept decelerating in the first month of autumn. The YoY growth rate for ex-volatile components has, for the first time since December 2009, turned negative (-1.7%), confirming the trend of slowing internal demand (which is also underpinned by slowing retail lending activity and car sales data for September). Combined with stronger exports (which likely finally rebounded in September on strong oil and gas export volumes) we could well see a strong trade balance reading, which is currently helping RUB to outperform most of its EM peers.