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Cablegate: Chile: Monthly Economic Highlights - July and August

VZCZCXYZ0024
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #0868/01 2591325
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161323Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0038
INFO MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000868

SIPDIS
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USTR KATE KALUTKIEWICZ
STATE PLEASE PASS TO FEDERAL RESERVE TOM CONNORS
TREASURY FOR BLINDQUIST
COMMERCE FOR KMANN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN ETRD EINV ECIN PGOV PREL CI
SUBJECT: CHILE: MONTHLY ECONOMIC HIGHLIGHTS - JULY AND AUGUST

REF: SANTIAGO 648 AND PREVIOUS

1. SUMMARY: Chile's economy may have passed through the worst of
the recession, as some macroeconomic indicators show positive
signs. The Chilean economy contracted by 4.5% in the second
quarter of 2009, and economic activity fell again in July and
August. However, August's seasonally adjusted economic activity
showed a slight increase (the first this year) when compared with
July. The IMF projects Chile will have the highest 2009 GDP per
capita in the region. Chile's economy is the most competitive in
the region according to the World Economic Forum. The unemployment
rate in Chile increased for the eighth period in a row to 10.8%.
Annual inflation continued to fall to -1%, making it likely that
Chile will face a period of deflation in 2009. Chile's Central
Bank maintained the key interest rate at 0.5% amid signs of
improving liquidity in financial markets. China became Chile's
largest trade partner, and Chile signed an FTA with Turkey. In the
first eight months of the year, copper prices rose by 114%, the
Peso appreciated against the Dollar by 13%, and the stock market
increased by 32%. END SUMMARY.

GDP Contracts in Second Quarter of 2009

---------------------------------------

2. In August, the Central Bank reported that Chile's GDP shrank by
4.5% in the second quarter of 2009 (compared with the same period
in 2008). This follows a contraction in GDP of 2.3% in the first
quarter of 2009. The Central Bank projects that Chile's GDP will
shrink between 0.25 and 0.75% in 2009. Experts predict those
numbers will be revised in the third or fourth quarter, given that
many expect a sharper contraction of between 1-2% for the year.

Economic Activity Shrinks but Shows Positive Signs

--------------------------------------------- -----

3. The Central Bank reported that the monthly economic activity
indicator (Imacec) contracted by 4% in June and 2.7% in July 2009
compared with the same months in 2008. This makes ten straight
months of economic contraction. Experts, however, believe that
since April the downward trend in the Imacec has decelerated. The
seasonally adjusted Imacec for July 2009 actually showed an
increase of 0.4% when compared with the month before, the first
sign of positive growth for the Chilean economy. The Imacec is
regarded as a proxy for GDP growth in Chile, as it includes 90% of
the same goods and services used to calculate GDP.

GDP Per Capita Expected to Top Region

-------------------------------------

4. According to IMF projections, Chile is expected to have GDP per
capita (in purchasing power parity) of $14,461 in 2009. Although
lower than the 2008 level, Chile will still have the highest GDP
per capita in Latin America, followed by Argentina and Mexico. The
IMF projects Chile will continue to have the highest GDP per capita
(PPP) through 2011.

Chile Remains Most Competitive in Region

----------------------------------------

5. The World Economic Forum ranked Chile the 30th most competitive

economy in the world in 2009, a slip from 28th last year. However,
Chile remains the most competitive economy in Latin America,
followed by Puerto Rico at 42nd.

Unemployment Rises for Eighth Period in a Row

---------------------------------------------

6. The National Statistics Institute (INE) reported that the
national unemployment rate climbed to 10.7% during April - June
2009 and to 10.8% during May - July 2009. This makes eight
straight increases in the national unemployment rate. In the last
period, unemployment increased in 12 of Chile's 15 regions, hit
double digits in 18 of Chile's 33 largest cities (rising above 14%
in 9 of those cities, including 18.5% in the key port city of
Valparaiso), and rose to 10.8% in the greater Santiago area.

Downward Trend in Inflation Resumes

-----------------------------------

7. The INE also reported that the Consumer Price Index decreased
0.4% in July and again in August, compared with the preceding
month. This marked a return to the negative inflation of previous
months. The CPI's annualized growth rate fell to -1% in August.
The CPI has fallen by 1.6% since the start of 2009, signaling the
likelihood that Chile will face a period of deflation this year.

Interest Rate Maintained at Low Level

-------------------------------------

8. The Central Bank decided to maintain the key interest rate
(monetary policy rate) at its minimum of 0.5% in August. This was
in keeping with a previous announcement by the Bank that the rate
would remain in effect for a "prolonged" period of time, possibly
six months. The Central Bank had cut the rate to 0.5% in July,
after six previous reductions from a rate of 8.25% in December
2008.

9. Tight credit conditions in the financial sector seem to be
easing. In July, the Superintendency of Banks and Financial
Institutions - SBIF (the regulatory authority) -reported that the
average annual interest rate on consumer loans had fallen by 220
basis points since the start of the year. This was credited to the
record-low interest rates maintained by the Central Bank and the
state-owned BancoEstado's aggressive lending policies, both
designed to improve access to credit.

10. In August, the SBIF reported that savings accounts increased
by 5.26% between January and May of 2009 compared with the same
period the year before. In August, the Central Bank reported that
the interest rate spread between loans and deposits has been
decreasing, reaching 4.2% (on loans vs. deposits of 30-89 days),
after highs of 9% at the beginning of the year.

China Now Chile's Largest Trade Partner

---------------------------------------

10. The National Customs Service reported that China had become
Chile's top trading partner based on trade figures between January
and July of 2009. The top five trading partners as of July 2009
were in order of size: China, the U.S., Brazil, South Korea, and
Argentina. Trade with the U.S. had reached approximately $1.2
billion as of July 2009.

New FTA with Turkey

-------------------

11. Chile and Turkey signed a Free Trade Agreement on July 14,
under which 98% of all goods will be traded duty-free, moving to
100% within six years. According to DIRECON, bilateral trade with
Turkey reached $437 million in 2008, with a $103 million surplus
for Chile. This marks Chile's 59th trade agreement (not all are
FTAs).

Copper Prices Continue to Move Higher

-------------------------------------

12. On the London Metals Exchange, copper closed at approximately
$2.83/pound on September 1. The price of copper was up
approximately 114% since the beginning of 2009.

13. In July, Chile's state copper commission (Cochilco) revised
its projection for the average price of copper in 2009 (up to
$1.95/pound from a previous estimate of $1.75). Cochilco estimates
Chile will produce 5.41 million metric tons of copper in 2009 (or
33% of global production). In 2010, the average price is projected
to reach $2.10 and Chile is expected to produce 5.75 million metric
tons (or 35% of global production). The numbers are credited to
increasing demand from China and a likely global economic recovery
by 2010.

14. Mining Minister Santiago Gonzalez said in July that he expects
copper prices to average around $2.00/pound for 2009. Press
reports in August indicated that because of the rebound in the
price of copper, mining firms have been able to hire back almost
60% of employees (7 million) who initially lost their jobs due to
the economic crisis (12 million). Chile's state-owned copper
company's (CODELCO) revenues in the first quarter of 2009 were $772
million, an 82.4% drop from the same period in 2008, and the worst
results for CODELCO in five years.

Chilean Peso Appreciates Against Dollar

---------------------------------------

15. On September 1, the observed exchange rate closed at
approximately 554 Chilean Pesos to 1 U.S. Dollar. This rate marks
an appreciation of about 13% from the beginning of 2009.

Stock Market Gains More Ground

------------------------------

16. The IPSA closed at 3132.87 on September 1. The IPSA is up
almost 32% for the first 8 months of 2009.
SIMONS

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