UPDATE 2-Auto sales buoy Mexico Nov exports, imports reflect demand
MEXICO CITY, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Mexican manufactured exports rose in November on strong auto sales to the United States, its top trade partner, while higher imports signaled healthy domestic demand. Mexico posted a $362 million trade deficit in November, adjusted for seasonal swings, narrowing from a revised $803.9 million deficit for October, the national statistics agency said on Thursday. In non-seasonally adjusted terms, Mexico posted a trade deficit of $1.273 billion, compared with a slightly revised $1.646 billion deficit for October. "The November trade balance was on the lower side of expectations ... but the good news is that the reason is because of higher imports of intermediate and capital goods, which is good for economic activity," said Pedro Tuesta, an analyst at the 4Cast consultancy in Washington. Total exports rose 1.3 percent last month compared with November of 2011, driven by non-oil sales to the United States. Auto sales to the United States continued to bolster Latin America's second-biggest economy but exports of plastic, rubber, and steel also contributed to the monthly rise. Total imports rose 4.7 percent on an annual base as oil imports surged 22.2 percent. While Mexico is a major oil producer, it lacks the capacity to refine much of it, having to ship crude abroad and then purchase it back as gasoline. "On the export side the rebounds come from manufacturing exports, where auto exports and non-auto manufacturing exports showed strong rebounds from weak October numbers," Tuesta added. Mexico sends nearly 80 percent of its exports to the United States. Mexican auto production rose 14.7 percent in November from a year earlier, while exports rose 10.4 percent, the Mexican Auto Industry Association said earlier this month. The group sees auto exports climbing about 4 percent next year to an all-time high. Non-oil, capital goods and consumer imports underlined strong demand, a good sign for the Mexican economy, which is seen expanding by 3.9 percent in 2012 and then slowing next year to 3.5 percent. Mexico's central bank is expected to hold its benchmark interest rate steady at 4.5 percent through 2013, after inflation eased more than expected in early December and dropped below a 4 percent tolerance limit.
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