Friday, May 6, 2011

Malaysia exports beat forecasts

KUALALUMPUR: Exports surged at a faster pace than expected in March, on the back of stronger orders for electrical and electronics (E&E) products from Malaysia.

The impact of the March disaster in Japan was not felt in the first quarter of the year as expected.

Beating market expectations, it grew by 7.8 per cent year-on-year while imports rose by 12.1 per cent, resulting in a total trade of RM114.59 billion, with a trade surplus of RM13.52 billion.

Compared to February, exports increased by 23.7 per cent while imports rose by 28.9 per cent.

Credit Suisse economist Wu Kun Lung said electronic exports surged 22.8 per cent in March compared to February.

"In ringgit terms, electronics exports are now only about 4 per cent below the pre-crisis peak,"he commented.

"The bounce in March (E&E sector) was a positive sign, but we think it is too early to tell whether the trend will continue, as higher oil prices and the supply-chain disruptions caused by Japan's earthquake are likely to weigh on electronics exports in the second quarter."

Wu said commodities have remained the main driver of export growth in the past 18 months and in ringgit terms, they were almost back to the peak registered in July 2008.

MITI said exports to China breached the record value of RM7.98 billion registered in March 2010, with a rise of 19.4 per cent, contributed to mainly by higher exports of E&E products especially integrated circuits, and crude rubber.

Exports to the European Union (EU) registered an increase of 11.2 per cent to RM6.78 billion, due mainly to higher exports of palm oil, chemicals and chemical products,crude rubber and refined petroleum products.

Exports to Japan rose by 13.9 per cent to RM6.60 billion, attributed mainly to higher exports of crude petroleum, LNG, E&E products and palm oil.

In March 2011, exports to the US declined 9.4 per cent to RM5.22 billion from RM5.77 billion in March 2010, due mainly to lower exports of E&E products, machinery, appliances and parts as well as crude petroleum. 

Exports of palm oil to the US also registered an increase of 32.0 per cent from March 2010.

For the first quarter of the year, exports registered an increase of 3.5 per cent while imports contracted by 3.4 per cent, in comparison with the fourth quarter of 2010.

Going forward, Wu said external trade should remain on an upward trend for the rest of 2011.

"The disaster in Japan might cause some weakness in external trade in the second quarter, but we expect the impact to be temporary."

On the commodity front, we might see commodity exports weaken in the next few months following the recent drop in palm oil, rubber, and crude oil prices, but exports should improve with the recovery in the G3 (US, Europe and Japan) economies. 

Wellian Wiranto of HSBC Bank said while Malaysia's exports might come to see a softer patch in the coming months due to supply chain disruptions, yesterday's data also showed that Malaysia has some buffer in the form of commodities should help tide things over.

 

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