MALAYSIA recorded a balance of payments surplus of RM11.8bil in the first nine months of 2002, against a deficit of RM600mil in the corresponding period a year ago, the Statistics Department said yesterday.
However, the 3rd quarter to end-September last year, saw a decline in the overall surplus to RM1.3bil, from RM3.3bil in the previous quarter.
In a statement, the department said that international reserves held by Bank Negara in the 3rd quarter rose by a net RM1.3bil, against a RM3.3bil net increase in the earlier quarter.
Quarter-on-quarter, the current account recorded a higher surplus of RM1.6bil, or 29.6%, to RM7bil, compared with RM5.4bil previously, while the financial account recorded a lower net outflow of RM2.2bil, against RM6.2bil before.
The department said the higher current account surplus was due to a larger surplus in the goods account - RM18.1bil, compared with RM14.9bil in the earlier quarter.
However, this was offset by a wider deficit of RM1.5bil in the services account, as well as a deficit in the income account amounting to RM6.2bil. The current transfer also saw a larger deficit of RM3.3bil, from RM2.4bil in the 2nd quarter.
On a year-on-year basis, the current account surplus in the first nine months of 2002 experienced a RM2.8bil, or 12.7%, fall to RM19.3bil, from RM22.1bil previously. The department attributed the decline to a lower surplus in the goods account, which registered a smaller surplus of RM49.7bil, compared with RM53.8bil previously.
According to the department, the financial account recorded a lower net outflow of RM2.2bil in July-September, compared with RM6.2bil in the preceding quarter. The drop was attributed to a lower net outflow in the portfolio investment to RM1.5bil, from RM5bil in the preceding quarter; coupled with the increased net inflow of RM2.1bil in direct investment, from RM200mil before.
CIMB Securities economist Lee Heng Guie said the nine-month current account figures confirmed he was on track for his full-year forecast of a RM25.1bil surplus. But he expects 2003 to show a smaller current account deficit of about RM23bil.
Another economist at a local brokerage firm, who declined to be named, said the narrower deficit in the 3rd quarter was a positive sign, and indicated that the outflow of portfolio funds was stabilising.
The 3rd quarter financial account figure is definitely an improvement over the 2nd quarter, but we will have to wait and see if this trend can be sustained into the 4th quarter of 2002, he added.