MALAYSIA'S trade surplus for the first seven months this year jumped 53.4% to RM41.16bil against the corresponding period last year, according to statistics released by the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti).
Total exports for the period rose 5.6% to RM211.6bil, with the main products comprising electrical and electronic products (50.3% or RM106.48bil), palm oil (6.1%), chemicals and chemical products (5.5%), crude petroleum (4.2%) and liquefied natural gas (4.1%).
Month-on-month, July's trade surplus of RM4.36bil, although marking the 69th consecutive month of trade surplus, was lower compared with RM6.95bil in June, due mainly to a lower than expected exports of electrical and electronic products.
Total exports of goods during the month showed a 0.5% drop to RM30.7bil while imports rose 10.2% to RM26.36bil.
Miti said declines were registered in the export of electrical and electronic products, which fell 6.3% to RM15.09bil, chemicals and chemical products (8.2% to RM1.63bil), machinery, appliances and parts (3.5% to RM1.03bil) and textiles and clothing (1.1% to RM775.3mil).
Increases were registered in export of palm oil (18.5% to RM2.25bil), crude petroleum (20.7% to RM1.27bil), wood products (13.5% to RM936mil), refined petroleum products (27.4% to RM657.6mil), iron and steel products (35% to RM362.2mil) and rubber products (7.9% to RM468.8mil).
Exports to the US fell 10.1% to RM5bil in July, after registering a 7.2% growth in the previous month, while exports to the European Union valued at RM3.77bil, was 2.1% lower. As for imports, increases were recorded in intermediate goods, which rose 9.4% to RM18.94bil, capital goods by 23.8% to RM4.13bil and consumption goods by 3.9% to RM1.59bil.
An economist with OSK Securities said the market had expected an export bill of at least RM5bil for July but the bigger than expected fall in demand for electrical and electronics products pulled down the total export value.
“The lower trade surplus reflects an unwinding in the country's trade position. As the national economy grows, we have to import more and this narrows the trade surplus figures,” he told StarBiz yesterday.
He said last year's strong pick-up in exports to RM31.07bil capped the export growth for this year, adding that the high base may continue to suppress the growth rate from going forward unless there was a big surge in demand overseas.
“With the overall economy appearing to be picking up, especially in the US and Japan, this should aid our exports and hopefully, it will be strong enough to translate into positive growth in total exports.”
Another economist with a local brokerage said the lower trade surplus was a “blip” after the double-digit surge in total exports in July last year.
“Going forward, the more positive external environment which translates to higher consumer and business spending, should augur well for our export performance, especially by the third quarter,” he said.
He said the higher import bill for intermediate and capital goods would also translate into higher output and exports for Malaysia.