March 27, 2015 / 2:35 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Mexico factory exports, consumer imports fall in February

(Adds jobless rate, historical comparison)

MEXICO CITY, March 27 (Reuters) - Mexican factory-made exports and non-oil consumer imports fell in February, pointing to sluggish growth early this year

Manufactured exports fell 0.25 percent in February compared with January in seasonally adjusted terms, the national statistics institute said on Friday, its second monthly contraction this year. While auto exports fell 2.12 percent, shipments of other factory-made goods ticked up 0.67 percent.

Mexico, Latin America’s No. 2 economy, is fueled largely by manufactured exports, such as televisions and cars, versus the region’s commodity exporters. Nearly 80 percent of exports head to the United States.

In its interest rate announcement on Thursday, the central bank flagged weaker dynamism in Mexico’s export sector due to slower growth in U.S. factories, signaling gathering risks to growth in Mexico.

The data showed non-oil consumer imports in February fell 1.34 percent from January, while capital goods imports plunged 10.2 percent. That was the biggest fall since June 2002, suggesting some manufacturers could be preparing to ramp down production. Imports of non-oil intermediate goods fell 3.72 percent.

Mexico’s economy picked up a bit at the end of 2014, when it expanded 2.1 percent. Economists expect the economy to grow about 3 percent this year.

Mexico posted a $44 million trade deficit in February when adjusted for seasonal swings, the data showed. In non-seasonally adjusted terms, Mexico posted a trade surplus of $558 million.

A separate report on Friday showed Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ticked up to 4.51 percent in February from 4.46 percent in January. The headline unadjusted rate fell to 4.33 percent in the same month from 4.51 percent the prior month. (Reporting by Alexandra Alper; editing by Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)

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