MALAYSIAN exports grew by a faster-than-expected 5.7% in April compared with a year ago but imports declined by a bigger magnitude, raising concerns that export performance over the next few months may slow down.
The difference in growth between exports and imports was, however, more than enough to ensure a trade surplus of RM5.77bil for April. The trade surplus for April 2002 was RM2.05bil.
The export performance for April was quite good, and seen to be resilient,'' said the economist at OSK Research.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said exports for April amounted to RM30.7bil, falling 4% from March on lower exports of crude petroleum, liquefied natural gas, refined petroleum products, and electrical and electronics products.
Electrical and electronics products, which accounted for 51% of total exports, fell by 2.3% from March. Globally, sales of semiconductors in April were flat on a month-on-month basis. Sluggish economic growth and the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in China were said to have caused sales in April to be deferred to future months.
Palm oil, which made up 5.8% of total exports, declined by 2.5% from a month ago.
Exports to Asean, which absorbed 27% of total exports in April, rose by 2.9% to RM8.3bil from a month earlier.
Goods exported to the US, European Union, Japan, Hong Kong, China and West Asia, however, all declined from March.
The ministry said total imports for April fell 7.6% year-on-year and 2.8% month-on-month to RM25bil.
China and South Korea were the only two major sources of Malaysian imports that registered positive growth; imports from Asean, Japan, the US, Taiwan and Germany all posted declines in April.
The largest component of imports intermediate goods fell 3.3% year-on-year and 4.5% month-on-month, and consumption goods 2.6% year-on-year and 2.2% month-on-month.
Imports of capital goods, which accounted for nearly 14.3% of total imports, fell about 30% year-on-year, but rose 3.4% month-on-month.
Economists said the decline in the import of intermediate goods could mean that export performance over the next couple of months could come in poorer than earlier estimated, especially since such goods are used to produce goods for export.
Exports should improve in the second half of the year to complement better economic conditions,'' said CIMB economist Lee Heng Guie.
In January-April this year, Malaysia posted a trade surplus of RM23.4bil. Total exports amounted to RM119.1bil, while imports came in at RM95.7bil.
The five largest export components were electrical and electronics goods, palm oil, chemical and chemical products, crude petroleum and LNG.
The five major import groups were electrical and electronics products; machinery, appliances and parts; chemical and chemical products; manufactures of metal; and iron and steel products.