RABAT, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Morocco’s trade deficit widened to 152.2 billion dirhams ($16 billion) in the first nine months of 2018, up 8.2 percent from the same period last year, the foreign exchange regulator said on Wednesday.
Imports, meanwhile, rose 9.7 percent to 353.8 billion dirhams, outstripping exports of 201.5 billion dirhams, up 11 percent.
With no oil of its own, Morocco’s energy imports weighed on the trade deficit, with a rise of 19.4 percent to 60.5 billion dirhams.
The automotive sector continued to top Morocco’s exports, climbing by 14.6 percent to 48.8 billion dirhams. The north African country is home to production plants of French carmakers Renault and PSA group.
Sales of phosphates and byproducts were up 16.6 percent at 38.2 billion dirhams.
The deepening trade deficit was felt on Morocco’s foreign exchange reserves, which dropped 0.4 percent year on year to 223.5 billion dirhams at Oct. 12 - enough to cover five months of import needs - according to central bank data.
Remittances from Moroccans living abroad and tourism receipts, which usually help the north African country to offset the import bill, dropped 0.2 percent to 49.7 billion dirhams and 1.1 percent to 54.8 billion dirhams respectively.
Foreign direct investments slipped by 3.2 percent to 19 billion dirhams in the first nine months the year, the foreign exchange regulator’s data showed. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi Editing by David Goodman)