Indonesia posts higher-than-expected trade surplus

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia posted a higher-than-expected trade surplus of US$1.13 billion (S$1.5 million) in March, the fourth consecutive month that South-east Asia's biggest economy has recorded a surplus, official data showed on Wednesday.

Both imports and exports fell sharply last month, the data showed. But the slowdown in imports was faster, leading to the surplus, which was about double the amount expected by economists.

It compared to a surplus of US$738.3 million in February.

March exports slipped 9.75 per cent compared to a year ago, while imports fell 13.39 per cent.

Exports have been hit by a slowdown in demand for Indonesia's key commodities, while imports have fallen as a weakening rupiah makes shipping goods into the country more expensive.

The trade surplus should help take pressure off the current account deficit for the first quarter of the year, and also the rupiah, said Bank Permata economist Josua Pardede.

The rupiah has suffered steep falls against the dollar in recent months, as the US unit strengthens.