Malaysia: Export growth softens in February, trade surplus widens
Malaysian exports lost steam in February, easing to 12.0% growth over the previous year and a total of USD 18.1 billion (January: USD 20.9 billion), which followed January’s revised jump of 32.9% (previously reported: +33.0% year-on-year). The softer print was underpinned by weaker overseas shipments for electrical and electronics and palm oil products, which was partially offset by stronger growth in exports of petroleum products. In ringgit terms, exports dropped 2.0% from the same month of the previous year in February, a significant swing from the 17.9% increase registered in January and the first drop in exports since November 2016. February’s meager export performance largely reflected the effects of the Lunar New Year holiday, which shortened workers’ hours. It also reflected the appreciation of the ringgit.
Likewise, year-on-year import growth retracted markedly in February to 11.1%, from 25.9% in January, and totaling USD 15.8 billion. A decline in imports of intermediate goods was the main driver of the weaker import growth. An increase in imports of consumer and capital goods partially offset the decline. In ringgit-denominated terms, imports dropped 2.8% in February, contrasting the 11.6% increase recorded in January.
The trade surplus came in at USD 2.3 billion in February (January: USD 2.4 billion), up from the USD 2.0 billion surplus recorded in the same month of the previous year. The 12-month moving sum of the trade surplus also rose, from USD 24.1 billion in January to USD 24.4 billion in February, the strongest figure since April 2016.