Malaysia's Nov export growth weaker than expected

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's exports in November rose at only half the pace anticipated, but economists said the country's trade picture remains satisfactory given the weak state of global demand.

Government data yesterday showed that exports grew 6.3 per cent year on year.

South-east Asia's third-largest economy has been hit by weak global prices for its commodity exports and by a slowdown in China, which in November was the biggest buyer of Malaysia's exports.

Compared with a year earlier, November earnings from liquefied natural gas tumbled while those from electronics and electrical products, the biggest export, increased only marginally.

"The export figures are a little bit disappointing, but considering what we've seen in the rest of the region, Malaysia's (export numbers) are still going up and that's going to continue going forward," said Mr Euben Paracuelles, an economist with Nomura in Singapore.

"Outside of commodities, a lot of Malaysia's manufactured exports are going to the US and this should help to offset the effects from the slowdown in China," he added.

Malaysia reports trade figures only in ringgit, which slumped more than 18 per cent against the US dollar last year. November's trade surplus narrowed to RM10.23 billion (S$3.3 billion) from RM12.2 billion the previous month.

Despite weaker commodity prices, Malaysia's year-to-date trade surplus of RM86.3 billion is considerably larger than the RM73.6 billion from the same period last year.

"This should provide some relief to the current account balance," Mr Rahul Bajoria, an economist at Barclays Bank Singapore, said in a report.

For the July-September quarter, Malaysia reported its smallest current account surplus in more than two years.

ANZ said it expected the current account to "remain comfortably in surplus", increasing from 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product to 4.5 per cent this year.

Imports in November rose 9.1 per cent on higher demand for electronic products and consumer goods.

Exports to the European Union rose 5.9 per cent from a year earlier, while those to the United States increased 9.2 per cent on higher shipments of manufactured goods.

In the third quarter, Malaysia grew 4.7 per cent from a year earlier, its slowest economic growth in over two years.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia's Nov export growth weaker than expected'. Print Edition | Subscribe