UPDATE 2-Mexican factory exports rebound in Feb after sharp drop

Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:40pm EDT

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* Factory exports rise 5.29 pct in February vs January

* Factory rebound does not make up for January's slump

* Imports dip 0.15 pct, non oil-consumer imports up 3.04 pct

MEXICO CITY, March 27 (Reuters) - Mexican manufactured exports rebounded in February by the most in a year, but not enough to compensate for the prior month's steep slide, signaling slower growth in Latin America's No. 2 economy.

Manufactured exports rose 5.29 percent last month from January when adjusted for seasonal swings, the biggest boost since February 2012, the national statistics agency INEGI said on Wednesday.

January had the largest drop since December 2008.

U.S. demand for Mexican-made exports, such as cars and TVs, helped bolster the economy last year amid sluggish global activity, but Mexican growth is seen slowing to a 3.5 percent rate this year from 3.9 percent in 2012.

Industrial output sank at the close of 2012 by the most since 2009.

Iker Cabiedes, a JPMorgan analyst based in Mexico City, called February's figure "something of a rebound," but said the numbers hinted at growth risks for Mexico this year.

"The dynamism that we were seeing in the export sector clearly has moderated," he said. "We will have to wait and see in the coming month if the manufacturing sector rebounds or stabilizes at relatively lower rates that we were seeing."

Total imports fell by 0.15 percent in February compared with January, but imports of non-oil consumer goods picked up 3.04 percent versus the prior month.

Mexico's central bank cut interest rates earlier this month for the first time in nearly four years, taking borrowing costs to a record low as policymakers aimed to spur growth and made a bet they were winning the battle against inflation.

Since then, data has shown both retail sales and industrial production in January reviving from dramatic slumps.

Mexican manufacturing tends to trail its counterpart north of the border, which showed increased growth last month.

The pace of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector picked up to its fastest rate in over a year and a half in February as new orders continued to accelerate.

Mexico posted a $676 million trade deficit in February, when adjusted for seasonal swings.

In non-seasonally adjusted terms, Mexico posted a trade surplus of $46 million.

Increased competitiveness of Mexican goods helped the country post its first annual trade surplus in 15 years in 2012.

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