Chile January manufacturing output down 4.4% yr/yr, copper production down 0.6%


Adds detail on markets served, copper industry, file photos

SANTIAGO, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Chile's manufacturing output fell 4.4% year-on-year in January, government statistics agency INE said on Friday, largely down to a 20.6% decrease in the manufacture of chemical substances and products.

The statistics agency said the production of methanol, used in antifreeze, had dropped most significantly, due a decline in demand from external markets.

It also pointed to a 3.5% decline in the manufacturing of food products, principally bread, due to a decline in sales to restaurants, hotels and casinos, which continue to be impacted by movement restrictions and an almost year-long nighttime curfew in Chile aimed at curbing the virus.

INE said the manufacture of metal products had dropped 14.1%, pointing to a drop in demand for mining projects.

Chile's commercial activity index, however, continued to show green shoots of recovery, ticking up 4.3% in the first month of the year after a 7.4% increase in December, while supermarket sales nudged up 16.5% after a 18.1% increase in December.

The country's copper output declined by 0.6% to 464,788 tonnes in the same month, the agency said, attributing this to a decline in production by a "important company in the sector" without giving further details.

The copper industry managed to maintain operational continuity despite restrictions imposed over successive months to curb the spread of the coronavirus, although some mines including BHP's Escondida reduced some activity.

State giant Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, registered a 16% decline in performance in December.

(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Alex Richardson and Nick Zieminski)

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