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The trade deficit came in at USD 7.2bn in December 2012, way below the USD 9.0bn consensus and even below our USD8.1bn estimate. The figure was also lower than the USD 8.1bn deficit registered in December 2011. The y/y contraction in the deficit continued for the 14th consecutive month in a row. Imports, which shrank by 3.7% y/y to USD 19.8bn in December, (Erste: USD 20.5bn, consensus: USD 22.0bn) were the main surprise. Exports which expanded by 1.4% y/y in December to USD 12.7bn (Erste: USD 12.5bn, USD 12.9bn) was close to the forecasts. In light of the fresh data, we expect a USD 5.1bn C/A deficit in December, which would bring the whole year's C/A deficit to around USD 49.6bn or 6.2% of GDP. This would be visibly lower than our original USD 53bn forecast. It is also worth mentioning that net gold exports have reached USD 5.7bn for the whole of 2012, with USD 13.3bn in exports and USD 7.6bn in imports. Gold exports, however, have been losing pace dropping to USD 571mn in December from a monthly average of USD 1.2bn in 11M12. Finally, although the foreign trade figures are welcome news regarding the ongoing improvement in Turkey's external imbalances, they also signal that economic activity remained weaker than expected in 4Q12, with all import groups declining (capital goods imports -8.5% y/y, intermediate goods -2.3% y/y and consumption goods -6.2% y/y).
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