According to the CBR, the trade surplus in January edged up QoQ to USD 17.7bn (from USD 17.1bn in December), although it was 13% lower than a year ago. Exports continued to decline, contracting 1.7% YoY to USD 39.0bn, although in MoM SA terms growth rebounded slightly to 1.0%, from 0.7%. Imports gained a significant 10.1% YoY (after the 2.4% YoY growth in December), but ticked down to 2.7% MoM SA (from 3.0% MoM SA a month ago) to USD 21.3bn.
In January, the external trade balance was almost unchanged from December but significantly below the levels from a year ago. The contraction in exports slowed, with higher oil prices as well as some advance in the trend growth of the key exports goods such as gas and ferrous metals. This supported the trade surplus, especially given the spike in the YoY growth of imports (particularly, on volatile components such as rail locomotives, pharmacy and sugar). Unless oil quotes rise (and we note that our base case is for Urals to decline towards USD 99/bbl eop-2013), Russia’s trade balance is set to shrink in the medium term, we think, putting pressure on RUB. At the same time, and given the overall bleak economic picture, we do not expect imports to add actively in 1H13. However, the favourable base effect might underpin the growth in imports.
Maxim Oreshkin, Daria Isakova
VTB Capital analyst
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