EXPORTS in April maintained the strong double-digit growth momentum since the start of the year, recording a 20.6 per cent expansion for the month.
Economists said the solid growth pace, the longest positive streak since January last year, was expected to continue through this month.
However, they expect some moderation in the second half of this year as base effects ease and output and new orders soften.
The International Trade and Industry Ministry said yesterday total trade expanded 22.5 per cent to RM139.18 billion in April.
Exports rose 20.6 per cent to RM73.97 billion, while imports grew 24.7 per cent to RM65.21 billion.
The trade surplus stood at RM8.75 billion for April, the 234th consecutive month of a trade surplus since November 1997.
Alliance Bank chief economist Manokaran Mottain described the growth pace as “solid”, mainly due to strong performance of electrical and electronics (E&E) exports and continued rebound in oil and gas shipment.
“The double-digit export growth continues to be sustainable for the sixth consecutive month and has been the longest positive growth streak since January last year,” he said, adding that import growth had been expanding at a strong pace.
“One plausible explanation for the surge in capital imports could be to support the various infrastructure projects in the pipeline, as well as various investment projects coming into effect this year.”
UOB Bank economist Julia Goh said exports appeared to be decelerating after peaking at 26.6 per cent in February.
“Malaysia’s positive export trend is in line with the cyclical upturn in regional exports, though the momentum showed signs of moderation in April: Japan (7.5 per cent), China (4.2 per cent), South Korea (24.1 per cent), Singapore (4.2 per cent), Thailand (7.8 per cent), Indonesia (12.6 per cent) and Vietnam (21.8 per cent).”
She expects the outlook for coming months to remain promising, given the strength in demand as global manufacturing activity remains steady, semiconductor sales entered its fourth month of double-digit increase in March, and commodity prices continue to hold their gains.
The ministry said for April, higher exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and crude petroleum led the 51.8 per cent in exports of mining goods.
Exports of manufactured goods rose by 17.3 per cent to RM60.48 billion, which accounted for a 81.8 per cent share of Malaysia’s global shipments.
Higher exports of E&E products, chemicals and chemical products, iron and steel products as well as rubber products also led to stronger export performance.
In the first four months of this year, exports of manufactured goods recorded the highest value increase of RM38.48 billion, or 18.9 per cent to RM241.95 billion.
The ministry said trade with most partners expanded with a positive double-digit growth momentum.
Exports to China recorded a sturdy growth of 50.6 per cent due to higher exports of petroleum products, E&E products, LNG and rubber products.
“Exports to China continued to record positive year-on-year growth since October last year,” it said, adding that imports from China increased by 15.3 per cent.
Exports to the European Union also recorded a double-digit growth at 26.5 per cent, and accounted for 10.1 per cent of total exports. Exports to the United States rose by 13.6 per cent on account of higher exports of E&E products, rubber products as well as machinery, equipment and parts.
However, Goh cautioned about moderation in the second half as China’s growth momentum was expected to ebb as reflation and restocking cycles wane while manufacturers might slow down their fixed-asset investment amid pressure from government tightening policies and higher refinancing costs.
She said should the ringgit appreciate below 4.00 against the US dollar, it could have some negative exchange revaluation effect on exports.