Philippines: Merchandise exports rebound in October; import downturn worsens
Merchandise exports grew 0.1% in annual terms in October, contrasting September’s revised 1.2% decline (previously reported: -2.6% year-on-year). The marginal recovery was driven by a pick-up in shipments of electronic products—which account for more than half of total export revenue—and a rebound in manufacturing export growth, despite a sharp decline in machinery and transport equipment shipments. On the other hand, growth in exports of agricultural goods moderated in October, but maintained a double-digit pace nevertheless due to a favorable base effect from the same month a year prior.
Imports, on the other hand, contracted at a sharper rate in October, marking the seventh consecutive decline and falling to an over seven-year low (October: -10.8% yoy; September: -10.5% yoy). The contraction came on the back of declines across the board The poor performance was also due to a high base effect from the surge in October of the prior year.
Consequently, the merchandise trade deficit narrowed to USD 3.3 billion in October from than the USD 4.1 billion shortfall in October 2018, but was wider than September’s USD 3.1 billion deficit.
Commenting on the persistent import downturn, ING Philippines Senior Economist Nicholas Mapa notes:
“Philippine imports contracted for a 7th month as capital outlays failed to match last year’s spending binge due to the government budget delay and depressed corporate investment appetite. The confluence of 2018 central bank rate hikes and the 5-month delay in the budget passage continue to weigh on overall investment activity. This is evident from the pullback in all major subsectors of the import bill.”