(Recasts with factory exports, adds details on imports)
MEXICO CITY, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Mexican factory-made exports sank in January, data showed on Thursday, while consumer imports remained flat in a sign that a sluggish economy may struggle to gain pace early this year.
Manufactured exports fell 3.3 percent in January compared with December in seasonally adjusted terms, the national statistics institute said. While car exports showed some growth, shipments of other factory-made goods dropped 5.1 percent versus December.
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 and stronger U.S. demand is expected to support Mexico’s economy this year while domestic demand remains sluggish.
The data showed non-oil consumer imports in January edged up a slight 0.2 percent from December. Capital goods imports surged more than 11 percent versus December, suggesting some manufacturers could be preparing to increase output.
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 $1.7 billion trade deficit in January when adjusted for seasonal swings, the national statistics agency said on Thursday. In non-seasonally adjusted terms, Mexico posted a trade deficit of $3.2 billion. (Reporting by Michael O‘Boyle; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)