Morocco's trade deficit hits record in 2012

RABAT Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:09am EST

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RABAT Jan 17 (Reuters) - Morocco's trade deficit rose 7.9 percent to a record 197.2 billion dirhams ($23.6 billion) last year, the foreign exchange regulator said on Thursday, as exports were restrained by weakness in the euro zone, its main trading partner.

Exports rose 4.7 percent to 183.2 billion dirhams, but imports climbed 6.3 percent to 380.4 billion dirhams.

Energy imports, which accounted for more than a quarter of total imports, climbed 14.8 percent last year.

Food imports rose 7.1 percent, partly because of a drought. Soft wheat imports rose 3.2 percent to 12.0 billion dirhams.

Tourism receipts, a major source of foreign exchange, fell 1.6 percent to 58.1 billion dirhams because of the slowdown in Europe. Remittances from about 3 million Moroccans living abroad, of whom some 2 million are in Europe, dropped 4.0 percent to 56.3 billion dirhams in 2012.

Equipment imports increased 7.9 percent, suggesting significant investment in the economy continued.

Foreign exchange reserves rose to 138.3 billion dirhams at the end of December from 132.40 billion dirhams in November, after the country cashed in a $1.5 billion international bond issue. Reserves still cover only about four months of import needs, among the lowest levels in a decade.

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