Latin America and the Caribbean received in 2012 a record $173.36 billion in foreign direct investment, or FDI, up 6.7 percent from the year before, the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said Tuesday.

The increase came despite a marked reduction of FDI at the global level, ECLAC said in its regional investment report for 2012 in Santiago.

The figures are the result of sustained economic growth in the region, the high prices of raw materials and the high return on investments associated with the exploitation of natural resources, the document said.

ECLAC estimates that this year's FDI in the region will end up somewhere between a 3-percent decrease and a 7-percent increase.

ECLAC warns that it does not see any clear indications of FDI making a significant contribution to establishing new sectors or creating technologically intense enterprises.

According to the report, FDI is increasingly aimed at exploiting natural resources, particularly in South America. The importance of manufacturing is limited except in Brazil and Mexico.

Brazil continues to be a leading recipient of FDI despite a slight drop of 2 percent in 2012, when it received $65.27 billion, 41 percent of the regional total.

The United States and countries of the European Union continue to be the chief investors in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

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